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Prospects of Terrorists Armed with Nuclear Weapons
   
 
 
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Prospects of Terrorists Armed with Nuclear Weapons

 
Friday, 22 May 2009 17:38
 
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by Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra (EPOS)
EPOS Insights

Imagine terrorists with nuclear weapon in their hands! The recent developments in Pakistan point at the feasibility of such a scenario with horrendous consequences for the world. These developments are going to add a new dimension to international terror discourse.Pakistan’s Dera Ghazi Khan nuclear site and its adjacent compound has become the target of terrorists on many occasions. It has faced at least one ground attack by more than a dozen gunmen.

The area, also known for sectarian violence, witnessed a suicide attack allegedly triggered by the Taliban on 5 February 2009 that killed more than 30 people. The recent turmoil in Pakistan, in which the army is engaged with the Taliban in border areas, has given rise to apprehension that the terrorists might take advantage of the volatile scenario and get hold of the nuclear weapons and target the perceived enemies.

That Pakistan’s nuclear programme has never been transparent is well acknowledged in international politics. Its architect A. Q. Khan has been interrogated on many occasions. He is known for smuggling nuclear technology from other countries. It may be another subject of debate as to whether Pakistan needs nuclear weapons or not but its obscure nature in developing the weapons has further added to the concerns about the safety of these weapons and the technology. The reported complicity of some of its nuclear scientists with the terrorist and extremist organisations and irresponsible states has raised alarm not only about the safety of these weapons but about the impending tragedy that might befall on the nations of the world.

Under the Biden-Lugar bill the US has tripled the civilian aid to Pakistan. However, a significant section of policy makers in the US have expressed fear that the aid given for humanitarian and counter terrorism purposes has been used by Pakistan to develop and expand its nuclear programmes. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a congressional panel earlier this month confirmed that Pakistan is expanding its nuclear weapons systems and warheads. The satellite pictures taken by the US have shown clearly how Pakistan has developed new nuclear weapons facilities at Dera Ghazi Khan and Rawalpindi. The satellite images show a major expansion of a chemical plant complex near Dera Ghazi Khan, and development of a plutonium separation plant adjacent to the old one near Rawalpindi. Reportedly Pakistan, particularly in installing additional capacity to produce nuclear materials for weapons, has the fastest weaponisation programme in the world.

Pakistan’s diversion of funds to nuclear weapon programme may be another subject of debate. Some analysts may argue Pakistan is expanding the programme for civilian use such as production of energy, but the credibility of such an argument might be put on test because first, these programme has dual use, i.e. the same technology can be used for building nuclear weapons; and second, the issue of safety of the nuclear weapons. Besides, Pakistan’s nuclear facilities expansion programme at a time when the army is engaged in a battle with the Taliban has also raised suspicions behind the motive to expand the facilities. Speaking at the Pacific Council on International Policy, the US’ CIA Director Leon Panetta observed on 18 May 2009 that the US does not know the location of the weapons nor the US has the intelligence to know where they all are located.

However he added that “The last thing we want is to have the Taliban have access to nuclear weapons in Pakistan.” Similarly, the meeting of security chiefs Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) members in Moscow on 20 May 2009 expressed concern at the proliferation of nuclear technology from Pakistan. Russian Security Council head Vladimir Nazarov observed, “The SCO states have legitimate worries that nuclear weapons in Pakistan may fall into the hands of terrorists.”


Pakistan reportedly has about 60 to 100 nuclear weapons deliverable by attack aircraft and ballistic missiles. The opaque character of nuclear programme in Pakistan, and its dominant control by the army, has further strengthened apprehensions of opening of nuclear material traffic to theterrorists groups like Al Qaeda and Taliban which control vast swathes of areas in North West. Hence, it is time the international community and organisations like the UN and its agencies play an effective role in ensuring the safety of the nuclear weapons and the technology in Pakistan. The US, which has been directly involved in the war ravaged country and recently after Obama coming to power in Washington raised its stakes by investing heavily in fighting the terror menace, needs to play an effective role in this direction. It needs to take steps so that the aid given to Pakistan are utilised properly. It must make the policy makers accountable so that the aid is used effectively without diversion of funds for nuclear programmes or without corruption. A mechanism can be developed in Pakistan with the support of the international organisations particularly the International Atomic Energy Agency, which can assist the Pak establishment in ensuring the safety of the nuclear weapons and prevent any leakage of these weapons.

Unless swift actions are taken against the expansion and likely proliferation, the world may suffer horrendous consequences much wider and much graver than that of the 9/11. It will pose a mortal danger against the very survival of Pakistan and its fledgling democracy, besides impacting the regional politics with international ramifications. As the terrorists do not have any religion, nor do they recognise the human values of compassion and dignity, the victims hence of a possible nuclear terror strike would definitely transcend boundaries of the nations. The likely capture of these weapons and more dangerously the technology by the terrorists either by means of theft or by forceful capture or by the complicity of corrupt officials would put the human life and its creations in jeopardy. It is the right time concrete measures are taken for safety of nuclear weapons and technology in Pakistan. Pakistan in this direction must be supported by the international community with all urgency.

 



 

Imagine terrorists with nuclear weapon in their hands! The recent developments in Pakistan point at the feasibility of such a scenario with horrendous consequences for the world. These developments are going to add a new dimension to international terror discourse.
Last modified on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 14:35
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