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How Pakistan secures its nuclear weapons

Islamabad, Sept. 3: There has often been speculation about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and added to that, is a fear that they might fall into the hands of extremists. But Islamabad, it seems, has taken appropriate measures to safeguard them from extraneous forces.
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and other related weapons are controlled by the National Command Authority (NCA), which has an Employment Control Committee (ECC) that decides on doctrine, posture and nuclear use.

Weapons development falls under the purview of the Development Control Committee (DCC), and according to Owen Bennett Jones, centralized control of these weapons is maintained by a two-key system and launch codes.

A three-man rule is also in place in that authority to launch the weapons has to be taken jointly by Pakistan’s President, Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff.

Internal security of nuclear storage is the responsibility of a 10,000-strong force headed by a Strategic Force Commander of Major-General rank.

It is generally believed that the weapons are not fully assembled and that warheads, detonators and missiles are kept separately. This storage method ensures against unauthorized launches.

All these steps for making Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal safe were necessitated after Washington expressed concern in 2002 that it wanted “sufficient forces on the ground” to control access to “Pakistan’s nuclear facilities”.

It was then felt that the nuclear weapons should not be made accessible to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) or to Pakistani scientists, particularly those involved with nuclear research.

In March 2002, non-uniformed American defense personnel were even sent to man Pakistan’s nuclear reactor establishments with the objective of taking an inventory of what was there and to examine records of “what ought and ought not to be there”.

“The technology found (then) indicated that Pakistan was certainly in no condition to deliver a small nuclear device to Al Qaeda, given that the US was monitoring their facilities,” says one report.

In spite of all these protective measures, there is still concern in the international community about how safe is Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. From Pakistan’s point of view, there are certain sections of the society, which belief that the US is waiting to “seize or disable” Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal “in the event of a collapse of government or an outbreak of civil war”.

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