The 100-plus-warhead question:
Who controls Pakistan’s nukes?
FAISAL MAHMOOD/REU TERS
A Pakistan-China joint military exercise in Jhelum, Pakistan, November 24. Sources say the Pakistani authorities are training 8,000 additional people to protect the country’s nuclear arsenal
The fresh controversy over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear mechanism was set off with the publication of a cover story in the December issue of The Atlantic.
Headlined ‘The Ally from Hell’, the report described
Pakistan as an unstable and violent country located at the
epicenter of global jihadism, and not the safest place on
earth to warehouse 100-plus nuclear weapons. Tagging
Pakistan as an obvious place for a jihadi organization to
seek a nuclear weapon or fissile material, the article said
the Pakistani military and security services are infiltrated
by jihadi sympathizers. It pointed out three key threats to
Pakistan’s nuclear program: Terrorist theft of a nuclear
weapon; transfer of a nuclear weapon to another state like
Iran, and a takeover of nuclear weapons by a militant group
during a period of instability.
The Atlanticadded: ‘A country that is home to the harsh-
est variants of Muslim fundamentalism, and to the head-
quarters of the organizations that espouse these extremist
ideologies, including Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, and
Lashkar-e-Tayiba, nuclear bombs capable of destroying
entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested
and dangerous roads…. In other words, the Pakistani gov-
ernment is willing to make its nuclear weapons more vul-
nerable to theft by jihadis simply to hide them from the
The Pakistani foreign office dismissed the apprehensions
as pure fiction, baseless and motivated, adding that the
Pakistani nuclear arsenal was absolutely safe under multi-
layered custodial controls. ‘The surfacing of such cam-
paigns is not something new. It is orchestrated by quarters
that are inimical to Pakistan,’ said a November 6 statement
issued by the foreign office spokesperson in Islamabad.