Pakistan and nuclear safety

Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of nuclear and high-energy physics, and chairman of the department of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, responding to a question from Stefania Maurizi of Il Venerdi, the Friday supplement of La Repubblica:

The government says there is absolutely no danger of loose nukes. Pakistan has been sending serving officers of the Strategic Plans Division, which is the agency responsible for handling nuclear weapons, to the United States for training in safety measures (PAL’s locking devices, storing procedures, etc). But there’s no way of telling if this will be effective. Extremists have already penetrated deep into the army and the intelligence agencies. We now see repeated evidence: for example, last month an unmarked bus carrying employees of the Inter Services Intelligence [Pakistan’s secret intelligence], was collecting employees early in the morning. It was boarded by a suicide bomber who blew himself up killing 25. It was an inside job.

And now there are many other such examples, such as that of an army man killing 16 Special Services Group commandos in a suicide attack at Ghazi Barotha. A part of the establishment is clearly at war with another part. There are also scientists, as well as military people, who are radical Islamists. Many questions come to mind: can there be collusion between different field-level commanders, resulting in the hijacking of a nuclear weapon? Could outsider groups develop links with insiders? Given the absence of accurate records of fissile material production, can one be certain that small quantities of highly enriched uranium or weapons grade plutonium have not already been diverted? I do not know the answers. Nobody does.

For the full interview, see “Pakistan After the Assassijation”: Interview with Pervez Hoodbhoy on Juan Cole’s ICGA blog.


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