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Last Updated: April, 2017

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] Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is increasing, but the scope and pace of this growth is uncertain. In September 2016, satellite imagery depicted Pakistan constructing a new uranium enrichment facility. [4] Open source estimates predict that Pakistan will have between 220-250 warheads by the year 2025. [5] In October 2015, Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Aizaz Chaudhry, confirmed for the first time that Pakistan had developed low-yield, “tactical” nuclear weapons. This has sparked concerns among the international community about the potentially destabilizing effects of such weapons. [6]


Pakistan signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in April 1972 and ratified it in 1974. In 2015, the US State Department found that there was no indication that Pakistan was out of compliance with its BTWC commitments. [7] Like many states, Pakistan possesses significant dual-use biotechnology capabilities, including well-equipped laboratories and trained scientists.


Pakistan signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1993 and ratified the treaty in 1997. 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 not listed in the US State Department's Condition 10 (C) Report. [9]


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 1,200 km). [10] 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 60 km), a short-range missile with the stated capability to "add deterrence value… at shorter ranges." [11] Pakistan successfully tested the Abdali (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. [12] In November 2013 and September 2014 the Army successfully test fired the Hatf-9 (Nasr) BSRBM. [13] Pakistan last tested the Ghaznavi in April and May 2014, the Shaheen-II in Novermber 2014, and the Ghauri in April 2015. On 9 March 2015, Islamabad test-fired a Shaheen-III MRBM with a range of 2,750 km. [14] Pakistan successfully tested another Shaheen-III missile on 11 December 2015. [15] In January 2017, Pakistan successfully tested a MRBM missile called the Abadeel reportedly capable of delivering a payload 2,200 km. [16]

In addition to ballistic missiles, cruise missiles are increasingly part of Pakistan's nuclear delivery plans, including the ground-launched Babur (Hatf-7, range 600 km), and the air-launched Ra'ad (Hatf-8, range 350 km). Pakistan last tested the Ra’ad ALCM in February 2015, but has not tested the Barbur since 2012. [17] [18] Pakistan has also claimed that it is working on sea-based second-strike capabilities. [19] In January 2017, Pakistan tested a submarine launched cruise missile intended to serve in this capacity. [20]

[1] "Interview with Abdul Qadeer Khan," The News (Islamabad), 30 May 1998,
[2] "Pakistan Rules Out Test Ban Treaty Endorsement," Global Security Newswire, 19 June 2009,; and "Statement by Ambassador Zamir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan at the Conference on Disarmament (CD)," Geneva, Reaching Critical Will, 27 August 2009,
[3] “Countries: Pakistan,” International Panel on Fissile Materials, 3 February 2013,
[4] Karl Dewey and Charlie Cartwright, “Satellite imagery suggests Pakistan building uranium enrichment facility,” IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, 16 September 2016.
[5] “Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, June 2014,; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Pakistan's Nuclear Forces, 2015," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 2015,
[6] Mohammad Ilyas Khan, “Why Pakistan Is Opening Up Over Its Nuclear Program,” BBC, 21 October 2015,
[7] US Department of State, "2015 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," 5 June 2015,
[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,
[9] US Department of State, "Compliance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction Condition 10(C) Report," 15 April 2015,
[10] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Pakistan's Nuclear Forces, 2011," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 67 No. 4, July/August 2011,; "Pakistan Successfully Test-Fires Hatf-IV Ballistic Missile," DAWN (Pakistan), 25 April 2012,; "Press Release No PR98/2012-ISPR," Inter Services Public Relations, 25 April 2012,
[11] "Press Release No PR94/2011-ISPR," Inter Services Public Relations, 19 April 2011,; "Pakistan Successfully Test-Fires Hatf-IV Ballistic Missile," DAWN (Pakistan), 25 April 2012,; "Pak Tests Nuclear-Capable Short Range Hatf-IX Missile," Indian Express, 29 May 2012,
[12] “Pakistan Successfully Test Fires Hatf-II Abdali Missile,” Geo TV News, 15 February 2013,; “Pakistan Conducts Successful Launch of Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 10 April 2013,
[13] 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,
[14] "Shaheen 3 Missile Test," Inter Services Public Relations, Press Release No PR61/2015-ISPR, 9 March 2015,; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Pakistan's Nuclear Forces, 2015," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 2015,
[15] “Pakistan Test-Fires Its Most Advanced Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missile,” RT, 11 December 2015,
[16] Inter Services Public Relations, Press Release, 24 January 2017,
[17] “Press Release No PR16/2016-ISPR,” Inter Services Public Relations, 19 January 2016,
[18] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Pakistan's Nuclear Forces, 2011," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 67 No. 4, July/August 2011,; Rahul Udoshi and James Hardy, “Pakistan Tests Ra’ad ALCM,” Jane’s 360, 2 February 2015,
[19] Franz-Stefan Gady, “Does Pakistan Have a Sea-Based Second Strike Capability?” The Diplomat, 13 March 2015,
[20] Joshua Berlinger, “South Asia's nuclear one-upmanship ramps up with Pakistan missile test,” CNN, 10 January 2017,

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

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2019.