The News International (Pakisstan)
October 01, 2001
US considering to give Pakistan
blast-proof doors for nuclear facilities
By Amir Mateen
WASHINGTON: The United States is considering to provide Pakistan with
blast-proof doors for its nuclear facilities to guard it in times of
trouble. A report in USA Today quotes Congressional officials who
were recently briefed by the Bush administration.
The Bush administration has special forces teams or emergency nuclear
search outfits ready to be dispatched to the region should Pakistan
lose control of any nuclear weapons, the report quotes Center for
Defense Information President Bruce Blair. The report says the
administration also is considering ways to safeguard Pakistan's
nuclear arsenal within the bounds of global treaties. US strategists
are having sleepless nights thinking about potential scenarios about
the fate of Pakistan's nuclear programme, should the political and
military crisis deepens there.
Even US Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed his fears on CBS
TV, saying, "We are very sensitive to that, and I know President
Musharraf is very sensitive to that." Writer Bill Nichols says Bush
has little choice but to take a risk on Pakistan. "We are making the
right decision, and it's the only decision. Unfortunately, it's a
very difficult one," Lee Feinstein, a former aide to Madeleine
Albright was quoted as saying. "We clearly need to enlist Pakistan in
this campaign. That raises questions about the stability of Pakistan,
but we have no choice."
US estimates say Pakistan has enough fissionable material for 30 to
50 nuclear bombs or warheads and 10 or more nuclear facilities --
reactors, weapons plants and uranium enrichment centres. Pakistan has
only short-range missiles -- with a range of several hundred miles --
capable of launching a nuclear warhead. But it has other means for
delivering weapons longer distances. Islamabad has tested air-drops
of nuclear bombs and has several types of aircraft that could do the
job, including 32 F-16 fighter jets purchased from the United States.
US officials say they fear Islamic radicals within the Army the most.
Experts say Pakistan's bombs, stored unassembled in component parts,
do not have many of the safety features that US devices have. For
example, small explosions, such as from a grenade, might be able to
ignite a Pakistani bomb, even in a disassembled state, says USA Today.
"I would hope that our government has asked the Pakistani government
to disable their nuclear arsenal" in advance of any US military
action against Afghanistan, says Blair of the Center for Defense
Information. Experts say they can envision several troubling
scenarios in which the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal might
* Terrorist cells loyal to bin Laden might attempt to take over a
Pakistani nuclear facility.
* A military coup could overthrow Musharraf's regime. That's how
Musharraf took power in 1999. As chief of the Pakistani army, he
overthrew the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. There have
been four coups since Pakistan became independent in 1947, as well as
four unsuccessful attempts.
* A popular uprising against Pakistani cooperation with the United
States could compromise internal security.
"Do they keep these things in different caves or are they in the same
place?" asks David Albright, president of the Institute for Science
and International Security. "Can you trust the people who guard these
things? There are all sorts of ways unsavoury types could end up with
"If the Musharraf regime were to be toppled or there was serious
unrest within the Pakistani military . . . there is the very serious
risk that the government might lose control of some of its nuclear
weapons and nuclear facilities," says Daryl Kimball, director of the
Arms Control Association. "I actually have been having nightmares
about this situation."