The threat to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is from within the Pakistani army and there’s no way external powers can destroy or seize these as long as Islamabad doesn’t make the mistake of attacking India, writes MIT-educated Pakistani nuclear scientist Pervez Hoodbhoy in his book, “Confronting the Bomb” .
Hoodbhoy writes that Pakistani army insiders in collusion with an external Islamic group could be plotting to appropriate nuclear assets, unknown to authorities entrusted with protecting these.
In February 2000, Pervez Musharraf, then chief of army staff and head of Pakistan government, created a nuclear command, which included a strategic plans division (SPD), which has physical custody of the weapons. Hoodbhoy argues, “Whatever the procedures and equipment Pakistan may adopt, they can only be as good as the men who operate them. Mindsets and intentions matter more than anything else.”
He adds, “The fear of loose weapons comes from the fact that Pakistan’s armed forces harbour a hidden enemy within their ranks. Those wearing the cloak of religion freely walk in and out of top security nuclear installations every day.” He emphasizes, “The fear of the insider is ubiquitous and well-founded,” and describes the Pakistani army as “a heavily Islamicised rank-and-file brimming with seditious thoughts.”
There are two Pakistani armies, he maintains. One led by General Pervez Ashraf Kayani and the other by Allah. “It is difficult to find another example where the defence apparatus of a modern state has been rendered so vulnerable by the threat posed by military insiders.” Even non-fundamentalist elements are “soft Islamists”, he says.
It is, however, possible that Pakistan possesses US supplied technology to enhance protection against unauthorised use or accidental nuclear detonations.
A former director of SPD, Feroz Khan, is quoted as saying that to meet the insider threat; SPD has adopted a US programme which carries out checks on personnel. “The system knows how to distinguish who is a ‘fundoo’ (fundamentalist) and who is simply pious.”
Hoodbhoy reacts, “But this does not really reassure.” He illustrates, “Long beards and prayer marks on the forehead are common and religious zeal is especially apparent during the month of Ramzan.”