ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday vehemently rejected a British newspaper report, claiming that Saudi Arabia had decided to buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan.
The report – appearing in The Sunday Times – cited senior American officials as saying that the Saudi authorities had taken the “strategic decision” to acquire “off-the-shelf” atomic weapons from Pakistan, risking a new arms race in the Middle East.
“There has been an entirely baseless and mischievous campaign in the international media regarding Pakistan’s indigenous nuclear programme,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah at his weekly news briefing.
The report also claimed that Riyadh had “financed much of Islamabad’s nuclear programme over the past three decades”. The move, according to the British newspaper, comes amid growing anger among Gulf Arab states over a deal backed by President Barack Obama, which they fear could allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb.
However, the Foreign Office spokesperson made it clear that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was “purely for its own legitimate self-defence and maintenance of a credible minimum deterrence”.
“Pakistan has a robust command and control structure and comprehensive export controls. Pakistan supports objectives of non-proliferation, as well as nuclear safety and security,” Khalilullah said.
Saudi Arabia also rebuffed the report as mere “speculation”.
A Saudi defence ministry official, however, said such reports were not new. “I don’t understand what the story is. This has been in the news for 18 years and will continue to be for the next 15 years,” he stated.
Pakistanis in Najran
Answering a question, the spokesperson said he had not seen reports of the Houthis taking control of two Saudi cities. But he said Pakistan has expressed concerns over the shelling from Yemen on Najran, a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen.
“About 15,000 Pakistanis are living in Najran. We have requested the Saudi authorities to ensure their safety and they have assured us that all possible measures will be taken in this regard,” he added.
No US concern on Axact
The spokesperson further said the United States has not conveyed any concern to Pakistan regarding the alleged fake degree scandal involving Axact.
Khalilullah said investigations are ongoing and everyone was looking forward to its outcome.
“No country, including the United States, has conveyed concerns to Pakistan,” he said while responding to a question about the fake degree scandal.
“It is not appropriate for me to say anything at this stage. Primarily, it is the subject of the interior ministry,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2015.