The scenario drawn up by think-tanks in the US, of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into militant hands, may just be more real than we think. This, of course, is a terrifying thought. So far, the possibility of such an event has been dismissed at home — but the high-level security alert put in place around Dera Ghazi Khan and the large-scale nuclear facility there, engaged mainly in mining and processing uranium, should force us to think otherwise. The local police chief of Dera Ghazi Khan, Chaudhry Saleem, has confirmed that a heavy contingent of police and army personnel has been placed around the facility after the ISI intercepted a telephone call suggesting an attack was planned on the site housing nuclear material. Experts point out that these kinds of conversations picked up by intelligence agencies have proved to be accurate in the past.
It is also a fact that just weeks ago, a daring attack was made on the Kamra air base, which also houses our nuclear assets. The ability of the militants to enter high-security facilities is terrifying. It appears that in the latest case, the attacks are intended to act as revenge for the death of Abdul Ghaffar Qaisarani, killed in an encounter with the Dera Ghazi Khan police some time ago. Information about Qaisarani’s whereabouts had apparently come after the capture of other terrorists.
What is alarming, though, is the fact that key nuclear installations are becoming definite targets of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Despite the death of Qaisarani, which weakened the TTP considerably in the area, it is said to have been able to regroup, and in some parts of southern Punjab, is stated to be growing stronger and more dangerous. This also raises questions about why more action was not taken in the past to defeat the TTP in Punjab and prevent the southern part of the province from becoming what many say is a safe haven for militants — no less so than the tribal areas in the north. It has become essential that we deal with the pockets where extremist groups gather. The possibility of nuclear weapons somehow falling into their hands is one we simply cannot afford. We appear to be getting closer to this horrific reality by the day.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2012.