Pakistan on Wednesday rejected International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei's comments about the possibility of its nuclear weapons falling into extremist hands, saying its atomic arsenal is 'fully secure and under multi-layered safeguards'.
"As head of the IAEA, which is a United Nations body, he has to be careful about his statements which ought to remain within the parameters of his mandate," Pakistan foreign office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said.
"ElBaradei's remarks ignored the fact that the strategic assets of Pakistan are fully secure and under multi-layered safeguards and controls exercised by the National Command Authority", he said.
Pakistan had been in touch with the IAEA on the issue and officials had spoken to ElBaradei's chief of staff. Sadiq, however, said ElBaradei's remarks would not have implications for Pakistan's relationship with the nuclear watchdog.
Pakistan has extended cooperation and assistance to the IAEA on 'many important issues' and its civil nuclear programme is under the watchdog's safeguards, he said.
The IAEA, Sadiq pointed out, was only concerned with safeguarded civilian nuclear facilities and ElBaradei's comments should remain with this mandate.
"ElBaradei had been briefed about the structure and control mechanisms put in place by Pakistan to ensure the complete safety of its nuclear assets," Sadiq said.
He said that Pakistan is a 'responsible nuclear state' whose atomic weapons are 'as secure as that of any other nuclear weapon state'. Statements expressing concern about the safety and security of the nuclear arsenal are 'unwarranted and irresponsible'.
There have been numerous reports in the Western media on the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in the wake of the political uncertainty created by the imposition of emergency in 2007 by president Pervez Musharraf.
Scientist A Q Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear programme, is currently under house arrest for proliferating nuclear technology and Islamabad has refused to allow IAEA investigators to question him.
But Sadiq said a section of the Western media was running a 'propaganda campaign against Pakistan, its national institutions and strategic assets' while analysing the aftermath of the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto on December 27. He rejected the 'absurd and sinister insinuations' made in these reports.
The spokesman also reacted to British foreign minister David Miliband's remarks that Pakistan would have to do more for holding free and fair polls. "The government of Pakistan has at the highest level declared that the elections will be free, fair, transparent and peaceful," he said.