Fact Sheet

Pakistan Chemical Overview

Pakistan Chemical Overview

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This page is part of the Pakistan Country Profile

Pakistan is not known to have ever possessed a chemical weapons (CW) program. The country has signed and ratified the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and is a member in good standing of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). 1


Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris characterize Pakistan as having, “the world’s fastest-growing nuclear stockpile.” 2 According to the SIPRI 2018 Yearbook, Pakistan possesses between 150 and 160 nuclear weapons. 3 Pakistan has stockpiled approximately 3.4 ± 0.4 metric tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU), and produces enough HEU for perhaps 10 to 15 warheads per year. Pakistan also has a stockpile of about 280 kg of weapons-grade plutonium . In addition, the Chashma reprocessing plant that began operations in 2015 is thought to have expanded Pakistan’s plutonium production capability by 50-100 kg per year. 4 Pakistan has completed work on all four reactors at the Khushab facility, where the Khan Research Laboratories greatly increased its HEU production capacity. Satellite imagery of the fourth and last reactor at Khushab from January 2015 verified the complete external construction, including the presence of steam that signified its operation. 5


Over the past thirty years, several countries and media outlets have periodically raised allegations of a possible Pakistani chemical weapons program. Absent clear and independently verifiable evidence, however, the veracity of these claims is unknown. Citing European intelligence documents, The Indian Express, an Indian newspaper, alleged in 1997 that Pakistan had a well-developed CW program dating to the late 1970s. 6 This assertion was based primarily on apparent evidence of Pakistani efforts to import large quantities of dual-use chemicals such as phosphorous compounds and arsenic, and the absence of their use in the civilian chemical industry – the report cites the intelligence document as stating that “there is no explanation for the accumulation of these chemicals.” 7

United States intelligence assessments from the early 1990s similarly noted that Pakistan “has procured dual-use chemical precursors from foreign sources and hopes to achieve self-sufficiency in producing precursors.” 8 However, it is unclear to what extent, if any, Pakistan developed chemical weapons based on this capability. In 1991, the United States Director of Naval Intelligence listed Pakistan as one of a number of states that “probably possess” an “offensive CW capability,” while in 1992 the Director of the CIA asserted that in addition to nuclear weapon programs, both India and Pakistan “have pursued chemical weapons.” 9 In the wake of Pakistan’s May 1998 nuclear tests, the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed sanctions on a large number of entities related to nuclear and missile proliferation, as well as a few chemical and biological facilities, including: the Karachi CBW Research Institute; the Karachi CW & BW Warfare R&D Laboratory; the Multan Chemical Fertilizer Plant; and the Wah Chemical Product Plant. 10 However, the United States lifted these sanctions in 2001, and there is no conclusive evidence that any of these companies has engaged in offensive chemical weapons research or development. 11 By 2001, the Department of Defense noted that “Pakistan is working towards establishing a viable commercial chemical industry capable of producing a variety of chemicals, some of which could be used to make chemical agents.” 12

Islamabad has consistently denied allegations that it pursued an offensive chemical weapons program, and has spoken in favor of CW arms control. 13 Pakistani officials have consistently denied any offensive chemical weapons program, and have spoken in favor of CW arms control. Simultaneously, Pakistan has insisted that the trade of chemicals for peaceful uses should not be overly hindered by any treaty. 14 As a confidence-building measure, Pakistan and India signed a Joint Declaration on the Complete Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 1992, undertaking not to develop, produce, acquire or use chemical weapons, and both countries signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993. However, upon ratification of the CWC in June 1997, India declared that it had conducted “testing and development of chemical weapons” for defensive purposes and that CWC-prohibited chemicals existed in certain military facilities. 15 Pakistan decried India’s declaration as a breach of the 1992 Joint Declaration, but Islamabad nonetheless ratified the treaty later that year and did not declare any chemical agent production facilities or stockpiles. 16

Pakistan has also been accused of supplying chemical weapons or chemical substances to non-state actors. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union alleged that Pakistan had armed insurgents battling Soviet forces in Afghanistan with cartridges and grenades containing toxic chemicals. 17 In the mid-1990s, the deposed Afghan government similarly accused Pakistan of supplying the Taliban militia with chemical weapons. 18 However, neither of these claims could be independently verified. In 1998, Indian police officials reportedly seized two kilograms of cyanide and the anesthetic fluothane from Sikh separatists in the state of Punjab. 19 Punjab police officials subsequently identified the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate as the source of the chemicals, and alleged that the arrested militants intended to poison the water supply or to target a military or paramilitary base in the country. 20 There is no independent evidence to support the Indian officials’ assertions.

Subsequent to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, evidence surfaced that senior Pakistani nuclear scientists Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudhry Abdul Majeed may have helped Al-Qaeda develop concepts for the aerial dispersion of chemical and biological warfare agents. 21 In 2002, Pakistani police also unearthed chemical laboratories belonging to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant Islamic group with links to Al-Qaeda, in the port city of Karachi. Investigations revealed that the group was preparing to produce poisonous gases for a possible terrorist attack. 22 It appears that these groups and individuals were acting independently without the knowledge or support of the Pakistani government.

In 1999, the Pakistani government announced a mandate for all domestic chemical producers to “furnish details of the chemicals” imported or used in Pakistan. 23 In October 2000, Islamabad promulgated the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Ordinance to prohibit the development, production, and use of CW in accordance with its obligations under the CWC. The law also criminalizes the unauthorized transport or transfer of chemical weapons or toxic dual-use chemicals and chemical agent precursors. 24 The OPCW has conducted a number of inspections of industrial facilities in Pakistan engaged in the production of CWC-scheduled chemicals, and none of these have resulted in publicly known irregularities. 25

Recent Developments and Current Status

Pakistan has continued to play an active role in the OPCW, supporting provisions to increase trade and assistance in the peaceful uses of the chemical industry as consistent with the positions of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). 26 Although the country’s domestic chemical industry has continued to grow, Pakistan still relies on imports for many raw materials and intermediate chemicals. In 2010, Islamabad released the Chemical Weapons Convention (Implementation) Rules, which established requirements for all companies dealing with CWC-scheduled chemicals to make declarations, obtain permits, and receive inspections. 27

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Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.

See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
The OPCW: Based in The Hague, the Netherlands, the OPCW is responsible for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). All countries ratifying the CWC become state parties to the CWC, and make up the membership of the OPCW. The OPCW meets annually, and in special sessions when necessary. For additional information, see the OPCW.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.
Weapons-grade material
Weapons-grade material: Refers to the nuclear materials that are most suitable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, e.g., uranium (U) enriched to 90 percent U-235 or plutonium (Pu) that is primarily composed of Pu-239 and contains less than 7% Pu-240. Crude nuclear weapons (i.e., improvised nuclear devices), could be fabricated from lower-grade materials.
Reprocessing: The chemical treatment of spent nuclear fuel to separate the remaining usable plutonium and uranium for re-fabrication into fuel, or alternatively, to extract the plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.
Nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor: A vessel in which nuclear fission may be sustained and controlled in a chain nuclear reaction. The varieties are many, but all incorporate certain features, including: fissionable or fissile fuel; a moderating material (unless the reactor is operated on fast neutrons); a reflector to conserve escaping neutrons; provisions of removal of heat; measuring and controlling instruments; and protective devices.
Dual-use item
An item that has both civilian and military applications. For example, many of the precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of chemical weapons have legitimate civilian industrial uses, such as the production of pesticides or ink for ballpoint pens.
Punitive measures, for example economic in nature, implemented in response to a state's violation of its international obligations.
Offensive (research, weapon)
Meant for use in instigating an attack, as opposed to defending against an attack.
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS)
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS): Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), NNWS are states that had not detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967, and who agree in joining the NPT to refrain from pursuing nuclear weapons (that is, all state parties to the NPT other than the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China).
Al-Qaeda or Al-Qa’ida
Al-Qaeda or Al-Qa'ida: A radical Islamist terrorist organization established by Osama bin Laden (now deceased), responsible for a number of attacks in the United States and worldwide, including the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Al-Qa'ida means “the base” in Arabic, and acts as an umbrella organization for a number of terrorist groups around the world. The organization’s current leader is Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Chemical Agent Precursor
Any chemical reactant which takes part at any stage in the production by whatever method of a chemical agent. This includes any key component of a binary or multi-component chemical system.  Common precursors to toxic chemicals are listed alongside the agents in the OPCW Schedules of Chemicals.  Many precursors controlled through nonproliferation initiatives also have legitimate commercial uses.


  1. "OPCW Member States," Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, www.opcw.org.
  2. "OPCW Member States," Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, www.opcw.org.
  3. Manvendra Singh, "Pakistan still building up lethal chemical weapons," Indian Express, 10 July 1997, www.expressindia.
  4. Manvendra Singh, "Pakistan still building up lethal chemical weapons," Indian Express, 10 July 1997, www.expressindia.
  5. Office of the Secretary of Defense, "Proliferation: Threat and Response," April 1996, www.dod.mil.
  6. Manvendra Singh, "Pakistan still building up lethal chemical weapons," Indian Express, 10 July 1997, www.expressindia.
  7. Manvendra Singh, "Pakistan still building up lethal chemical weapons," Indian Express, 10 July 1997, www.expressindia.
  8. Office of the Secretary of Defense, "Proliferation: Threat and Response," April 1996, www.dod.mil.
  9. Michael Wines, "After the War: Chemical Arms; Navy Report Asserts Many Nations Seek or Have Poison Gas," The New York Times, 10 March 1991, www.nytimes.com; "Statement of the Director of Central Intelligence before the Senate Armed Services Committee," CIA, 22 January 1992, www.foia.cia.gov.
  10. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration, "India and Pakistan Sanctions and Other Measures," Federal Register, Vol. 63, No. 223, 19 November 1998, www.bis.doc.gov.
  11. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration, "India and Pakistan: Lifting of Sanctions, Removal of Indian and Pakistani Entities, and Revision in License Review Policy; Final Rule," Federal Register, Vol. 66, No. 190, 1 October 2001, www.bis.doc.gov.
  12. Office of the Secretary of Defense, "Proliferation: Threat and Response," January 2001, www.fas.org; Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense, "Chemical and Biological Defense Primer," October 2001.
  13. "Pakistan Denies Reports on chemical Weapons inspections," BBC Monitoring Newsfile, London, 22 April 2003.
  14. "Pakistan Wants 'Early Settlement' on Chemical Weapons," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 8 July 1992, in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, www.lexis-nexis.com.
  15. "Chemical Weapons Convention - Declarations and Inspections," Trust & Verify, Issue 76, August 1997, www.vertic.org; "CWC Developments," Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 17, July-August 1997, www.acronym.org.
  16. "Pakistan's Instrument of Ratification," Nuclear Files, 29 October 1997, www.nuclearfiles.org; "Pakistan: Ratification of Chemical Weapons Convention," United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs Treaties Database, http://disarmament.un.org.
  17. "Subversive Operations from Pakistan," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9 September 1980; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, www.lexis-nexis.com.
  18. "Afghan minister says Taliban used Pakistani chemical weapons," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 7 October 1996; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, October 7, 1996, www.lexis-nexis.com.
  19. "Pakistan's ISI planned mass poisoning in India, says official," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 6 September 1998; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, www.lexis-nexis.com.
  20. "Pakistan's ISI planned mass poisoning in India, says official," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 6 September 1998; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, www.lexis-nexis.com.
  21. Douglas Franz and David Rohde, "A Nation Challenged: Biological Terror; 2 Pakistanis Linked to Papers on Anthrax Weapons," The New York Times, 28 November 2001, www.nytimes.com; B. Muralidhar Reddy, "Pakistan Denies Link Between Scientists and Al Qaeda," The Hindu, 29 November 2001, www.hinduonnet.com; Tom Walker, Stephen Grey, and Nick Fielding, "Bin Laden's Camps Reveal Chemical Weapon Ambition," The Sunday Times, 25 November 2001, www.timesonline.co.uk.
  22. "Karachi labs hint at terrorists trying to acquire chem weapons," Press Trust of India, 19 September 2001; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, www.lexis-nexis.com.
  23. "Government to monitor toxic chemical use in Pakistan," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 27 February 1999, in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, www.lexis-nexis.com.
  24. Permanent Mission of Paksitan to the UN, "Note verbale dated 27 October 2004 from the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations addressed to the Chairman of the Committee," Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1540 (2004), S/AC.44/2004/(02)/22, 5 November 2004, www.nti.org.
  25. B. Muralidhar Reddy, "Chemical Weapons Inspectors Visit Plant in Pak.," The Hindu, 1 May 2003; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, www.lexis-nexis.com; "UN Chemical Weapon Inspectors End Tour of Pakistani Fertilizer Plant," Financial Times Information, 20 June 2003; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, www.lexis-nexis.com.
  26. OPCW, "Statement by H.E. Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the OPCW, at the Sixty-Seventh Session of the Executive Council," EC-67/NAT.12, 14 February 2012, www.opcw.org.
  27. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Statutory Notification 205(1)/2010," The Gazette of Pakistan, 26 March 2010, www.opcw.org.


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