ISLAMABAD: Pakistan rejected US concerns, on Thursday, that its nuclear assets may fall into the wrong hands, insisting the country’s strategic assets were safe and sound.
During the Foreign Ministry weekly press briefing, spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan said, “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.”
The statements were in reaction to recent remarks made by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who feared that Pakistan’s nuclear assets were in danger of falling into the hands of terrorists if terrorism was not controlled in the country.
“The great danger we’ve always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in their country, than those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands,” Panetta had earlier told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.
The US Defense Secretary was responding to questions on a recent congressional report which had said that Pakistan is increasing its nuclear capabilities, which are mainly targeted towards India.
The foreign ministry spokesman, however, refused 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 by the Tehreek-i-Taliban on a key military airbase in Kamra early Thursday morning, leading to an almost four hour-long gun battle between the attackers and military commandos.
A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also brushed aside speculations that the latest assault could endanger the country’s nuclear assets.
‘No foreign boots on Pakistani soil’
The foreign ministry spokesman also denied reports that Pakistan was planning any joint military offensive with the United States in North Waziristan Agency.
“This is a question of Pakistan’s sovereignty and we had made it very clear from day one that fighting terrorism and extremism on its own territory is Pakistan’s responsibility and we are quite capable of handling that on our own,” he said.
However, he maintained that Pakistan would cooperate on intelligence sharing with the US to deal with elements posing a threat on either sides of the border.
Regarding a question on cross border attacks on the Af-Pak border, the spokesman said that Pakistan was engaging both with Afghanistan and Nato/Isaf to address the issue.
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, non-interference and no use of force is a viable option,” he emphasised.
Earlier on Thursday, the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria in a meeting attended by its staunch ally Iran, in a move hailed early Thursday by the US as one that sends “a strong message” to Damascus.