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Insight into Pak's broken nuclear chain of command

September 09, 2008 15:38 IST

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Expressing concern over the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, a former senior intelligence officer has raised serious doubts about the control of civilian authority over the nuclear chain of command.

Observing that Pakistan witnessed four coups in 60 years, he said its nuclear weapons programme has been the 'sole preserve of the army' and there were 'serious doubts' persisting within Pakistan about the level of knowledge in the civilian leadership about the critical aspects of nuclear policy.

In his latest book, Lt Col RSN Singh quoted slain leader Benazir Bhutto [Images] as saying that she came to know more about Pakistan's nuclear programme from the CIA rather than her own army. Similarly, any notion about any degree of civilian control was dispelled when Nawaz Sharif was deposed as prime minister by Pervez Musharraf [Images].

"No Premier could have tamely handed over the nuclear key -- if by chance he had it -- to a General who had just ousted him in a coup," the former officer of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) of the Cabinet Secretariat said, adding that any hope about civilian control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal was dashed by Musharraf's coup.

'Pakistan's polity is characterised by disorderly transfer of power, with serious implications for the viability of any nuclear chain of command,' he said in the book titled The Military Factor in Pakistan.

The book, published by Lancers and brought out by the Observer Research Foundation, was released in New Delhi [Images] on Tuesday by former army chief Gen V N Sharma.

Sharif during his previous tenure as prime minister had initiated moves to create a National Command Authority to control to manage Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

The Authority was to include some ministers and three service chiefs, with the final power to authorise the use of nuclear weapons resting with the prime minister, the former R&AW officer said.

In 1999, Sharif had also approved the creation of a nuclear regulatory authority to prevent the export of nuclear technology, before being ousted in the coup by Musharraf.

Singh said there were 'fissures' in the Pakistan Army [Images], which if degenerates into violent rivalry for ascendance, 'may impact not only on the (nuclear) command and control structure but on the very custody of nuclear weapons'.

'Further, if the fundamentalists in the army and outside were ever to call the shots, they are quite capable of proliferation for the cause of Ummah. After all, Pakistan flaunted its nuclear programme to the Islamic countries as the Islamic Bomb,' Singh said.

He also warned that there was 'an imminent danger of the country being consumed by the fanatical forces' and there was bound to be vicious insurgency by the fundamentalists, which may even take the shape of a civil war in tribal Pakistan.

'If Pakistan wishes to survive as a state, it must focus its entire energy to pull itself out of the morass of fundamentalism,' he said and added 'it is no mean task'.

The former R&AW officer's book gives an in-depth analysis of how Pakistan arrived at this critical juncture and makes projections on the future of the country and its strategic political journey.

© Copyright 2008 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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