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Last Updated: December, 2015

Pakistan signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1972, and ratified it in 1974. [1] Although it has a well-developed biotechnology research and development infrastructure, there is no evidence of any Pakistani program to develop, produce, or stockpile biological weapons or agents.


Since the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Defense has assessed that Pakistan "has the resources and capabilities appropriate to conducting research and development relating to biological warfare." [2] However, the United States government has not alleged that Pakistan has any intention of using dual-use capabilities to develop biological weapons. 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 four chemical and biological facilities: the Center for Advanced Molecular Biology, Lahore; Karachi CBW Research Institute; Karachi CW & BW Warfare R&D Laboratory; and the National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Faisalabad. [3] However, the United States lifted the sanctions in 2001, and there is no indication that any of these companies has engaged in offensive biological weapons research or development. [4]

During BTWC Review Conferences, Pakistani representatives have urged more robust participation from state signatories, invited new states to join the treaty, and, as part of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), argued in favor of guaranteeing states' rights to engage in peaceful exchanges of biological and toxin materials for scientific research. [5] Pakistan has a patchwork of existing legislation to implement its obligations to the BTWC, as detailed in its reports pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540. [6] In a statement to the BTWC Review Conference in 2011, Pakistan announced that it had drafted legislation that would "comprehensively prohibit designing, development, manufacturing, stockpiling, transport, import, export, sale, acquisition and possession of biological agents and toxins including their means of delivery." [7]

Recent Developments and Current Status

Pakistan's biotechnology sector has continued to expand in recent years, with dozens of institutions dealing with biotechnology and genetic engineering. Of greater proliferation concern than a dedicated BW program is the possibility that dangerous dual-use biological materials from these facilities could be inadvertently exported or fall into the hands of state or non-state actors as a result of possible weaknesses in Pakistan's export control and biological security systems. Since the mid-2000s, Pakistan has increased its regulation of the biological industry, issuing a set of biosafety rules in 2005 which established a National Biosafety Committee to create guidelines, issue export licenses, and inspect facilities dealing with "living modified organism[s] or genetically modified organisms." [8] Islamabad has also taken measures to improve its WMD-relevant export controls. In 2004, the government released the Export Control on Goods, Technologies, Material and Equipment Related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and their Delivery Systems Act, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs created the Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV) to regulate exports of biological, nuclear, and missile-related products. [9] An updated control list, released in 2011, brought Pakistan's biological export controls in line with those of the Australia Group (AG), although Pakistan remains outside the Group. [10]

In 2015, the US State Department found that there was no indication that Pakistan was out of compliance with its BTWC commitments. [11]

[1] "Status of the Convention," The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Website, June 2005,
[2] Office of the Secretary of Defense, "Proliferation: Threat and Response," April 1996,
[3] Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration, "India and Pakistan Sanctions and Other Measures," Federal Register, Vol. 63, No. 223, 19 November 1998,
[4] 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,; "Proliferation (Pakistan), Biological," Jane's CBRN Assessments, 20 March 2012,
[5] "Statement by Mr. Abdul Basit, Acting Permanent Representative, at the Fifth Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacterial (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction," Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations, 19 November 2001,
[6] United Nations Security Council, "Note Verbale dated 27 October 2004 from the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations Addressed to the Chairman of the Committee," S/AC.44/2004/(02)/22, 5 November 2004,; Zahoor Ahmed, "National Implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention – The Case of India and Pakistan," South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, Research Paper No. 34, April 2010,
[7] "Statement by Ambassador Zamir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, at the Seventh BWC Review Conference," Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations, 6 December 2011,
[8] Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency, "Pakistan Biosafety Rules, 2005: Notification," S.R.O. (I) 336(I)/2005, 21 April 2005,
[9] "Pakistan Joins Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, Establishes Strategic Export Control Division," International Export Control Observer, June/July 2007, p. 3,
[10] IAEA, "Communication of 17 October 2011 from the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the Agency Concerning the Export Control Policies of the Government of Pakistan and a Statutory Regulatory Order," INFCIRC/832, 30 November 2011,
[11] US Department of State, "2015 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," 5 June 2015,

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.