Following a brazen militant attack on the Minhas Air Force Base near Kamra, Pakistan rejected US concerns that its nuclear weapons may fall into the wrong hands — insisting the country’s strategic assets are safe and sound.
“Pakistan’s strategic assets are safe and sound and we have a robust command and control in place. So nobody should worry about the safety and security of our nuclear assets,” said Foreign ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan at his weekly briefing on Thursday.
His statement came on the heels of recent remarks by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who expressed fear that there is a danger of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists if militancy is not controlled in the country.
Such fears gained momentum when militants attacked the air force base in the Attock district where some of the country’s nuclear weapons are thought to be stored.
Earlier, Panetta had told reporters at a Pentagon news conference: “The great danger we’ve always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in their country then those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands”.
Panetta was responding to questions on a recent congressional report which said Pakistan is increasing its nuclear capabilities, which are mainly targeted towards India.
However, the spokespersonrefused to comment on the US congressional report.
“We don’t comment on such reports. We have a very clear position on the principle of credible minimum deterrence,” he added.
His remarks came hours after a brazen attack was launched by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which led to an almost four hour-long gun battle between attackers and military commandos.
Another security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also brushed aside speculations that the latest assault could endanger the country’s nuclear weapons.
A US Department of Defence spokesperson said that they have no indication that the Kamra airbase attack endangered Pakistan’s nuclear assets.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Commander Bill Speaks, a spokesperson for the Department of Defence, said that the attack at the PAF base in Kamra is a concern, and that they were saddened by it. “We would also commend Pakistani security forces for their efforts in repelling the attack,” he said.
Reports in the press have indicated that the PAF base in Kamra is home to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. To a question of the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Commander Speaks said, “We obviously work closely on a regular basis with our Pakistani counterparts to discuss the safety of their nuclear programme, and it’s our sense that the Pakistani government maintains good security around their nuclear arsenal. We have no indication that this particular attack endangered Pakistani nuclear assets.”
The Syrian crisis
Expressing concerns over the deteriorating situation in Syria, the spokesman insisted that Pakistan had taken a principled stand on the issue.
“While we are concerned about the deteriorating situation in Syria and we feel that the bloodshed must be stopped immediately, we feel that only a peaceful and political solution, based on the principles of non-intervention, is a viable option,” he maintained.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2012.