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Overview Last updated: April, 2015

Pakistan embarked on a nuclear weapons program in the early 1970s, following its defeat and break-up in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Islamabad regards nuclear weapons and their delivery systems as essential to offsetting its conventional inferiority against India and maintaining the South Asian balance of power. The technological achievement associated with nuclear weapons and ballistic and cruise missiles is also closely tied to Pakistan's post-colonial identity as the first Muslim country to have acquired such capabilities. There is no reliable open source information to suggest that Pakistan has biological or chemical weapons.


In the mid-1970s, Pakistan took the uranium enrichment route to acquiring a nuclear weapons capability under the direction of A.Q. Khan. By the mid-1980s, Pakistan had a clandestine uranium enrichment facility, and Khan would later assert that the country had acquired the capability to assemble a first-generation nuclear device as early as 1984. [1] Shortly after India's testing series in May 1998, Islamabad conducted its own nuclear tests and declared itself a nuclear weapon state. Pakistan is not a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The country has also refused to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and has blocked consensus at the Conference on Disarmament on starting negotiations for a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). [2] According to estimates by the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) in 2013, Pakistan has accumulated a stockpile of 3 ± 1.2 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and 0.15 ± 0.05 tons of weapon-grade plutonium. [3] United States intelligence estimates in 2014 put the number of stockpiled nuclear warheads at between 100 and 120. [4] As of 2014, Pakistan is bidding for three additional nuclear power plants from China to meet the country's 2030 goal of generating 8,800 MW of nuclear energy to solve its chronic power shortages. [5] 


Pakistan signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in April 1972 and ratified it in 1974. Credible open source literature suggests Pakistan has neither biological weapons nor a biological weapons program. The country does possess significant dual-use biotechnology capabilities, including well-equipped laboratories and trained scientists. [6]


Pakistan signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1993 and ratified the treaty in 1997. The 2013 US Annual Threat Assessment does not name Pakistan in its list of states and groups with a chemical weapons threat, and there have been no allegations of a Pakistani chemical weapons program. [7] In December 2013, the Pakistani representative to the OPCW stated that "Pakistan remains opposed to the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances, and finds it totally unacceptable.” [8]


Pakistan is developing both solid- and liquid-fueled ballistic missiles, based extensively on foreign systems, including those from China and North Korea. Nuclear-capable ballistic missiles inducted by Pakistan into its strategic forces include the Ghaznavi (Hatf-3, range 400km); the Shaheen-I (Hatf-4, range 750 km); and the Ghauri (Hatf-5, range 1,200km). [9] Missiles under development include the Shaheen-II (Hatf-6, range 2,000 km); the Shaheen-IA (an upgraded Hatf-4, range 2,500-3,000km); and the Nasr (Hatf-9, range 60km), a short-range missile tested in May 2012 with the stated capability to "add deterrence value… at shorter ranges." [10] Pakistan successfully tested the Hatf-2 (range 180 km) on 15 February 2013, and Shaheen I on 10 April 2013, reportedly improving the missile’s design and increasing range to 900 km. [11] In November 2013 and September 2014 the Army successfully test fired the Hatf-9 (Nasr) BSRBM. [12] On 9 March 2015, Islamabad test-fired a Shaheen-III MRBM with a range of 2,750km. [13]

In addition to ballistic missiles, cruise missiles are increasingly part of Pakistan's nuclear delivery plans, including the ground-launched Babur (Hatf-7, range 600km), and the air-launched Ra'ad (Hatf-8, range 350km), which have each been tested several times. [14] In September 2012, Pakistan Navy tested Surface to Air Missiles to enhance its operational capacity. [15] The LAM, Pakistan’s first sea-launched missile, will also be an important development to monitor in the future, as it could lay the foundation for a Naval-based second strike capability.

[1] "Interview with Abdul Qadeer Khan," The News (Islamabad), 30 May 1998, http://nuclearweaponarchive.org.
[2] "Pakistan Rules Out Test Ban Treaty Endorsement," Global Security Newswire, 19 June 2009, www.nti.org; and "Statement by Ambassador Zamir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan at the Conference on Disarmament (CD)," Geneva, 27 August 2009, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[3] “Countries: Pakistan,” International Panel on Fissile Materials, 3 February 2013, www.fissilematerials.org.
[4] “Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, June 2014, www.armscontrol.org.
[5] Saeed Shah, "Pakistan in Talks to Acquire 3 Nuclear Power Plants from China," The Wall Street Journal Online, 20 January 2014, http://online.wsj.com.
[6] “Chemical and Biological Weapons Status at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, February 2014, www.armscontrol.org; “Status of the Convention,” The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Website, June 2005, www.opbw.org.
[7] “Chemical and Biological Weapons Status at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, February 2014, www.armscontrol.org; United States Defense Intelligence Agency, “Annual Threat Assessment,” 17 April 2013, www.armed-services.senate.gov; “OPCW Member States,” Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, www.opcw.org.
[8] Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, "Statement by H.E. Mr. Moazzam Ahmad Khan- Permanent Representative of the OPCW to Pakistan, at the Eighteenth Session of the Conference of the States Parties," C-18/NAT.9, 3 December 2013, www.opcw.org.
[9] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Pakistan's Nuclear Forces, 2011," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 67 No. 4, July/August 2011, http://bos.sagepub.com; "Pakistan Successfully Test-Fires Hatf-IV Ballistic Missile," DAWN (Pakistan), 25 April 2012, http://dawn.com; "Press Release No PR98/2012-ISPR," Inter Services Public Relations, 25 April 2012, www.ispr.gov.pk.
[10] "Press Release No PR94/2011-ISPR," Inter Services Public Relations, 19 April 2011, www.ispr.gov.pk; "Pakistan Successfully Test-Fires Hatf-IV Ballistic Missile," DAWN (Pakistan), 25 April 2012, http://dawn.com; "Pak Tests Nuclear-Capable Short Range Hatf-IX Missile," Indian Express, 29 May 2012, www.indianexpress.com.
[11] “Pakistan Successfully Test Fires Hatf-II Abdali Missile,” Geo TV News, 15 February 2013, www.geo.tv; “Pakistan Conducts Successful Launch of Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 10 April 2013, www.lexisnexis.com.
[12] Shakil Shaikh, “Pakistan Test-Fires Hatf-IX,” The News International, 20 April 2011; "Pakistan test-fires short range missile Hatf IX," The Times of India, 26 September 2014, http://timesofindia.com.
[13] "Shaheen 3 Missile Test," Inter Services Public Relations, Press Release No PR61/2015-ISPR, 9 March 2015, www.ispr.gov.pk.
[14] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Pakistan's Nuclear Forces, 2011," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 67 No. 4, July/August 2011, http://bos.sagepub.com.
[15] “Pakistan Navy Test-fires Surface-to-air Missiles,” Daily Times (Pakistan), 30 September 2012, www.dailytimes.com.pk; “Pakistan Navy Testfires Missiles,” Gulf News (UAE), 29 September 2012, www.gulfnews.com; “Pakistan Navy Successfully Test-launches SAMs,” The Nation (Pakistan), 29 September 2012, www.nation.com.pk.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

Get the Facts on Pakistan

  • Conducted its first five nuclear tests on 28 May 1998
  • Widely believed to have produced enough fissile material for 90-110 nuclear warheads
  • Signed agreement with India in 2005 to provide advanced notice of ballistic missile tests