Pakistan’s Nuclear Program: Determinant of Pakistan’s Security


Since the initiation of Pakistan’s Nuclear weapons program, it has been subjected to harsh criticisms over its security. These objections are baseless and are a part of a maligning propaganda against the nuclear progress of Pakistan. According to a study conducted by USA in January 2014 on worldwide nuclear security material, Pakistan is the most improved state among other nuclear armed states in terms of safeguarding its nuclear arsenals. Since 2012, Pakistan has improved by three points while India has just improved by a single point.

In February 2000, Pakistan National Security Council established an organization named National Command Authority, which governs different areas like, employment, research, development and practices control over Pakistan’s nuclear program. NCA comprises of the Employment Control Committee, the Development Control Committee and Strategic Plans Division (SPD).

As mentioned in a report prepared by the veterans of this field, the Employment Control Committee is the NCA’s main policy making body. It functions as a political-military committee. The Development Control Committee is a military-technical committee that transforms the policy decisions taken by the Employment Control Committee into proper executable activities and ensures their success by the strategic organizations. The SPD itself has four main directorates. The Operations and Planning Directorate, carries out the operational planning, i.e. they come up with an executable scheme for the implementation body. The CCCCIISR (Computerized Command, Control, Communications, Information, Intelligence and Surveillance Directorate) is responsible for developing and maintaining strategic command and communication links. The Strategic Weapons Development Directorate carries out liaison with the strategic organizations and handles budgetary concerns. The Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs directorate provides policy recommendations on all arms control and disarmament issues and participates in relevant bilateral and multilateral nonproliferation discussions for the betterment of the program.

There are some subsidiary organizations, such as the Consultancy Directorate, which has got technical experts who provide technical advice on all construction projects, and the Strategic Forces Communications Planning (SFCD) cell, comprising of communications experts to assist the CCCCIISR directorate. The Security Division is by far the largest component in terms of number of personnel, and its primary responsibility is to provide internal and external security to all sensitive installations and sites. This division plays a significant role in the security of nuclear infrastructures and has a lot of responsibilities on its shoulders. As mentioned in a news report, the Security Division comprises more than 20,000 highly trained and skillful security personnel to guard the arsenals.

Perimeter security is an integral element of all nuclear installations, civilian or military. Central responsibility for the security and physical protection of nuclear facilities resides with the SPD. According to a report prepared by Kenneth N. Luongo and Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Naeem Salik in 2007, there is presently a multilayered approach to perimeter security. The first layer is the Inner perimeter. Though this is the responsibility of the particular facility but its security is overlooked by SPD. This division is headed by a two-star general. The forces there operate on a permanent basis and receive special training. Certain facilities are also protected by air defense elements and are designated as no-fly zone. For Outer perimeter, fencing has recently been strengthened at facilities, and new technologies like electronic sensors, closed-circuit television cameras, have been installed. The third one works on identifying external threats to facilities. A report prepared by David Albright and Robert Avagyan said that Satellite imagery showed increased security features around Khushab-4. Moreover Chaim Braun in his study “Security Issues related to Future Pakistani Nuclear Power program” has written, that Pakistan has operated its existing plants safely, and gained a degree of independence in providing plant services attests to the inherently good capabilities of Pakistan’s nuclear plants’ personnel and to the potential for enhanced operations if improved relations with the world nuclear power community evolve.”

Other than this, SPD has been responsible for conducting external speculation on all nuclear inventories. Any nuclear or radioactive material that enters into the safeguarded system comes under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (UN’s Vienna based watchdog), which monitors and tracks the movement of materials through the system until they are disposed off. Four of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, the Karachi and Chashma-1 power reactors and the Pakistan Atomic Research Reactors I and II in Rawalpindi, currently operate under IAEA safeguards.

The security clearance and screening processes of all individuals for employment in the strategic organizations has been further strengthened through the establishment of Personal Reliability Program (PRP) as mentioned in a report prepared by Kenneth N. Luongo and Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Naeem Salik. Now anyone who is assigned to a strategic project or a sensitive task undergoes a security clearance by Inter services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, and the SPD. Besides PRP for military personnel, SPD has also introduced Human Reliability Program (HRP) to monitor the activities of all civilians working for the nuclear program.

According to a research paper “Safety and Security of Pakistan’s Civilian Nuclear Industry,” published by South Asian Strategic Stability Institute”, Pakistan signed the Convention of Nuclear Safety (CNS) in 1994. In order to fulfill the obligation under CNS, each member state has to establish an independent regulatory body. In this regards, Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Body has came into being under Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). To further this process of having independent regulatory infrastructure, Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) was established after the promulgation of PNRA Ordinance 2001. This national statutory nuclear authority is responsible for regulating all aspects of radiation and nuclear energy. The PNRA issues licenses for imports and exports of radiological substances and controls, regulates, and supervises all matters relating to its safety and protection. The PNRA has developed a five-year Nuclear Security Action Plan (NSAP) intended to enhance safety and security for all nuclear and radiation facilities and sources.

As reported by Luongo and Salik in ‘Building Confidence in Pakistan’s Nuclear Security’, Pakistan  approved the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) in 2000, and worked to ensure that it meets all the guidelines included in the convection. In 2005, an amendment was introduced in the convention; however, officials are also considering accession to July 2005 amendments that are intended to strengthen the CPPNM. According to a report by Dr Zafar Nawaz who is the Director at School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, ‘in order to prevent the possibility of theft and sabotage during the transportation of sensitive nuclear materials, effective measures have been instituted to fulfill international obligations under the UNSCR 1540’. Special vehicles and tamper-proof containers are provided for the transportation of nuclear materials that are escorted by military personnel. All adequate measures have been taken to ensure utmost protection.

The Nation published an article “Pakistan’s nuclear weapons safety and security” on 23 February 2013, according to which Pakistan’s Parliament legislated an Act on the ‘Export Control of  Goods, Technologies, Material and Equipment Related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and their Delivery Systems Act’, in September 2004. The purpose of this Act is to consolidate control on the export of sensitive technologies, particularly those related to nuclear and biological weapons and their means of delivery to minimize the chances of thievery and smuggling.

Nuclear weapons in Pakistan are kept at different locations and the whereabouts are kept top-secret. The weapons are also kept de-mated, which means that the warheads are kept separate from their fissile cores and their delivery systems. According to a report by Jeffery Goldberg and Marc Ambinder, a senior official of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the Pakistani military’s spy agency, told National Journal that US fears about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were entirely unfounded. “Of all the things in the world to worry about, the issue you should worry about the least is the safety of our nuclear program,” the official said. “It is completely secure.” He went on to say, “It is in our interest to keep our bases safe as well. You must trust us that we have maximum and impenetrable security. No one with ill intent can get near our strategic assets.”

In an article, a retired Pakistani Brigadier-General Asad Munir, who formerly served in the senior ranks of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, says that all nuclear installations, whether civilian or military are guarded with elaborate security arrangements. “They know it. They have been here, they have seen the system. They know that it is not easy. It is almost impossible [to breach the nuclear security]. Otherwise they would have taken action. The people who matter know that nobody is in a position to take these installations and take away nukes,” Munir said.

The United States and Pakistan initiated a bilateral dialogue on improving nuclear security after a visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell in October 2001. Pakistan has participated in three Nuclear Security Summits in 2010, 2012 and 2014. During his address in Seoul (2012) Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said, “Pakistan has taken effective measures which are the most important part of its efforts to enhance nuclear security.” He also said, “As we meet here, we break new grounds on the evolving global nuclear security architecture, the role of the IAEA, and protection of nuclear materials and radioactive sources.”

In spite of these regulatory bodies, security organizations, parliament acts and such concrete steps, international community questions Pakistan’s nuclear safety program. They keep Pakistan under constant scrutiny and media has perfectly done its job by misleading the public with wrong facts and figures. Though no cases of theft or attack on nuclear establishments have been reported, still Pakistan is now and then accused of being vulnerable. No doubt, there have been crisis situation and security related issues in the country, but the nuclear institutes have always pledged maximum and immaculate security. Pakistan clearly realizes the gravity of a nuclear disaster and has taken all required steps.

Pakistan is the only Muslim state who has nuclear weapons. Somehow, due the negative propaganda at the international arena, only Pakistan is being focused and criticized and no other nation. On second anniversary of the detonation of the country’s first atomic bomb, according to a report published by the National Journal, Dr A. Q. Khan told a little group of people and an American reporter that westerners resented Pakistan’s admission into the nuclear club. “The West has been leading a crusade against the Muslims for a thousand years,” he continued that ‘US would try its best to neutralize Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Pervaz Mushraff echoing this opinion said “No one ever speaks of the dangers of a Hindu bomb.”  It is clearly evident that the adversaries are carrying out a maneuver to hinder Pakistan’s nuclear progress. Harvard’s professor Graham Allison said that ” The U.S. tried to prevent Pakistan from becoming a nuclear-weapons state, it is not delusional for Pakistan to fear that America is interested in de‑nuking them.”

Among all other things, we have learnt one thing well from the past, these western powers make the rules and they are the ones who bend them according to their personal interests. These peace treaties, international summits, disarmament organizations etc are all a display of sheer hypocrisy. In the end, they do what they feel like doing. Since its propagation, the world has feared Islam and now they fear an Islamic Nuclear bomb. These people would do anything in their power to denuclearize Pakistan. But now, Pakistanis will not be deceived by this western drama of ‘nuclear security concern’.

Zahabia is an aspiring journalist pursuing a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Karachi. She tweets @zkmotorwala and can be reached at

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