Pak's Nuclear Arms: Assets or liabilities? Back   Home  
One of the reasons cited by President Pervez Musharraf for joining the United States' "war against terrorism" was to protect Pakistan's strategic assets. The obvious inference being that, otherwise, these would have been endangered. The inevitable question that has been troubling the public mind is that are these assets, which are simultaneously said to have made the national defence "impregnable", so vulnerable that saving them should dictate major policy decisions? It can, nonetheless, be argued that these could not have withstood a combined Indo-US assault and India alone is a separate matter. But the inference that follows is that, after deciding to side with the US, the security of these assets ought to have become beyond dispute.

Unfortunately, far from that happening, a new and unexpected debate has erupted about the possibility of these assets falling into unsafe hands. Pakistani officials, from President Musharraf to the foreign office spokesman, have been denying on a daily basis any such eventuality without apparently convincing the "quarters concerned." Even an unexpected compliment on this count from the normally virulent Indian defence minister, George Fernandes, seems not to have helped. Thus, Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar felt obligated to put in an appearance at the daily news briefing to "assure the world" that "Pakistan's nuclear assets are in safe hands." He yet again outlined the multi-layered security that envelops these assets, precluding completely the possibility of any theft or unauthorised deployment. It remains to be seen if this will be the last of the assurances on this issue which, by their intensity and repetitiveness, have begun to worry the public mind and call into question the real intent of our "friend and ally."

While the US Secretary of State Colin Powell and ambassador Wendy Chamberlin have both discounted any risk to the Pakistani assets, the simultaneous US offers of "technical assistance" to improve nuclear security undercut these expressions of confidence. If anything, this offer should be made to India whose assets are already in the hands of fundamentalists. But Pakistan has also not helped its cause by taking into custody two scientists who are said to have been running some welfare outfits in Afghanistan. Rather than allowing the matter to become mired in secrecy and the inevitable speculation, it would be far better to bring the case against them, if there be any, out in the open. If they have breached security, surely the "fool proof security system" includes laws to punish them.

Mutual security and benefit being the essence of any relationship which claims to be a friendship as well, Pakistan has not far seen either in its new "long haul" hook up with the US. Aside from the unending mantra about nuclear safety, the Indian sabre rattling is becoming shriller by the day. Even on the crucial debt write-off issue, an emotive symbol by which the "silent majority" will judge the sincerity of US intentions and the wisdom of siding with it, the government seems to have meekly retreated to the rescheduling option. It seems, therefore, that history is possibly set to repeat itself in yet another one-sided Pak-US "friendship."
Editorial of Pakistan Newspaper Jung.