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Pakistan Dismisses Report on Lax Warhead Security

(Nov. 7) -A Pakistani nuclear-capable Shaheen 2 missile, shown on display during a 2008 parade in Islamabad. Pakistan on Sunday rejected a U.S. media assertion that procedures previously used by the nation for transferring its nuclear warheads made the weapons more vulnerable to seizure by militants (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti). (Nov. 7) -A Pakistani nuclear-capable Shaheen 2 missile, shown on display during a 2008 parade in Islamabad. Pakistan on Sunday rejected a U.S. media assertion that procedures previously used by the nation for transferring its nuclear warheads made the weapons more vulnerable to seizure by militants (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti).

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry on Sunday dismissed a U.S. news report that the methods its army used to transport nuclear warheads on highly trafficked roadways made the weapons more susceptible to being stolen by local extremists, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Oct. 21; Agence France-Presse/Google News, Nov. 6).

A joint investigation by National Journal and The Atlantic on Friday asserted that Pakistan has transported its warheads in seemingly ordinary vans without visible security in an attempt to mask their location from U.S. intelligence agencies.

Islamabad has long feared that the United States is plotting to steal its nuclear weapons and the surprise May incursion in Abbottabad by U.S. Navy SEALs that resulted in al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's death has only heightened Pakistan's concern (see GSN, June 2).

But the steps Pakistan has taken to cloak the locations of its nuclear warheads have fueled the U.S. military's determination to ensure that terrorists are never able to acquire the weapons, resulting in the drawing up of secret Pentagon plans to secure the warheads by whatever means necessary, Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder wrote in their joint report (Goldberg/Ambinder, The Atlantic, December 2011).

Islamabad characterized the journalists' report as "pure fiction, baseless and motivated," AFP reported.

"It is part of a deliberate propaganda campaign meant to mislead opinion," the Foreign Ministry said.

The Pakistani government routinely dismisses international worries over the security of its nuclear weapons, which are believed to number between 90 and 110 warheads.

"The surfacing of such [smear] campaigns is not something new," the ministry said in a statement. "It is orchestrated by quarters that are inimical to Pakistan."

Pakistan insisted it was able to protect its security assets: "No one should underestimate Pakistan's will and capability to defend its sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests" (Agence France-Presse).

Last month, the head of the Pakistani army division in charge of safeguarding the nation's nuclear deterrent said the government would train and employ 8,000 new nuclear security workers by 2013, according to an earlier report (see GSN, Oct. 19).

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf also dismissed the seriousness of the Washington news article and said the U.S. military would have a very difficult time if it attempted to seize the warheads, Asian News International reported on Sunday.

"I don't think it is possible, from my military perspective, for anyone, including the United States to attack Pakistan's nuclear weapons that easily," Pakistan's onetime army chief said in an interview with the Express Tribune.

"They are very well dispersed and they are in very strong positions. And, also guarded," Musharraf said of the warheads.

Musharraf said in his time as army chief and president, he was never provided a "running commentary" on the transportation of the warheads.

A U.S. operation into Pakistan to seize the warheads would not be "as simple as Osama bin Laden action," because the nuclear weapons are "very hard targets" held in "places which are not accessible," he stated (Asian News International/Yahoo!News, Nov. 6).

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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