October 29, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 3330

Head of Pakistan's Nuclear Program: Pakistan Has the Right to Use Nuclear Weapons Should the Need Arise

October 29, 2010
Pakistan | Special Dispatch No. 3330

In a recent interview with investigative journalist Sameh 'Abdallah of the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, Lieutenant-General (Ret.) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, the director-general since 1988 of Pakistan's Strategic Planning Division – the military body responsible for the production, security, and storage of Pakistan's nuclear weapons – said that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is aimed chiefly at India, since, he claimed, Pakistan had no other enemies. He stressed that Pakistan has the right to use these weapons if the need arises, and to defend its sovereignty and its nuclear arsenal against attempts to dismantle or harm them. He added that Pakistan is entitled to share its knowledge and experience in the nuclear field with other countries, such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, under the supervision of the IAEA, thus preventing Pakistan's isolation.

Following are excerpts from the interview: [1]

We Have the Right to Use Nuclear Weapons Should the Need Arise

Q: "According to your strategic plan, under what conditions or in what circumstances might you use nuclear arms...?"

A: "We do not talk about how we would use nuclear arms or under what circumstances; we always refer, first and foremost, to [our basic] right to use them should the need arise."

Q: "And who [is authorized] to take a decision to launch a nuclear attack?"

A: "The National Command Authority, comprising nine members and headed by the prime minister, is the only body authorized to take a decision to use nuclear arms. The Strategic Planning Division, of which I am head, is responsible for implementing the decision. We serve as the secretariat of the National Command Authority, as it were."

Q: "Who exactly are the members of the [National Command] Authority?"

A: "[It] includes four federal ministers; the chief of staff, who mediates between the army, navy, and air force; the heads of these three branches of the military; and the prime minister, who heads [the Authority], as I mentioned."

Q: "Numerous reports indicate that Pakistan would not have obtained nuclear arms had it not been for the great Pakistani scientist 'Abdul Qadeer Khan. Exactly what role did he play in this domain?"

A: "Pakistan launched the process to attain nuclear arms in response to the first nuclear [test] carried out by India in 1974. But the actual work in the field of nuclear arms production began when Pakistani nuclear scientist 'Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was then working in the Netherlands, was [enlisted by then-]Prime Minister Zulfikar 'Ali Bhutto, who gave him free rein to work independently... At that time, 'Abdul Qadeer Khan proposed to use new technology that was not yet widespread, based on using high grade uranium rather than plutonium, which was then the more common [method]."

Q: "What was the budget for 'Abdul Qadeer Khan's project and how long did it take?"

A: "With a tight budget, Khan succeeded in enriching uranium to 93% within seven years, which is the percentage needed for nuclear arms production. In May 1988, India conducted five nuclear tests. Pakistan responded two weeks later with six tests of its own, conducted within two days, all of which were successful, while [the success of] at least three of India's nuclear tests has been questioned."

Q: "What exactly are the Strategic Planning Division's fields of responsibility in the nuclear domain?”

A: "The Strategic Planning Division is responsible for all nuclear activity in Pakistan, including nuclear activity for peaceful purposes and missile production."

Q: "What is its current budget?"

A: "The budget is fixed in proportion to the allocations for conventional arms."

Impossible for Nuclear Weapons to Fall into the Hands of Terrorists

Q: "Are you also responsible for securing the nuclear arms?"

A: "Of course."

Q: "In that case, how do you regard the numerous reports from the West addressing the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists from the various groups active within Pakistan?"

A: "Those are inaccurate claims. The experts in the field know that this is impossible."

Q: "If that is so, how do you secure the nuclear arsenal?"

A: "The nuclear facilities' security [array] includes some 10,500 hand-picked soldiers, who are responsible for all the security procedures connected with these facilities. These security procedures include intelligence operations to prevent infiltration by members of terrorist groups, as well as the protection of more than 2,000 scientists who work in the nuclear field... The Strategic Planning Division works with all of Pakistan's intelligence apparatuses, both civilian and military, in order to protect and ensure the security of the nuclear facilities. We strictly prevent the leaking of nuclear technology to external [forces]. To be precise, we ensure that [what happened] with 'Abdul Qadeer Khan will not recur."

Q: "How many [nuclear] facilities are you securing?"

A: "Many, including the zones where uranium is located and mined, [where] raw material is extracted and refined, [where] yellowcake is produced, and [where] uranium is then turned into gas before undergoing repeated processes whereby it is enriched to [a level of] between 3% up to 90%. Then there are the facilities involved in the production and storage of nuclear weapons and missiles, and finally, [facilities for] nuclear waste treatment."

No Attempts Have Been Made to Attack Pakistani Nuclear Facilities

Q: "Have there been no attempts to attack these nuclear facilities in recent years?'

A: "No. There has been no attempt to attack any nuclear facility. Incidentally, it is difficult to steal a 60-foot missile or to take over a mobile missile conveyance and launch platform, which requires years of training to operate."

Q: "But what about bombs or warheads? Aren't they easier to steal?"

A: "The bombs are heavy too, and a crane is needed to move them. In addition, nuclear weapons are activated by a complex electronic system. Each nuclear weapon can only be activated when a unique code is entered, and this code is different for every unit."

Q: "How many nuclear weapons does Pakistan possess, and where are they kept?"

A: "We are not divulging [that information]... for security reasons."

Q: "Do you not discuss these matters with the American officials who are concerned about the security of your nuclear weapons?"

A: "We do not discuss this with anyone, nor do we inform any country about the location or scope of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal."

Q: "Can you tell us, at least, about the nature of the place where the weapons are stored?"

A: "They are stored in places that can withstand any possible attack, including a nuclear attack."

Pakistan's Nuclear Program Is Aimed at India

Q: "Is Pakistan's nuclear program aimed only at India, or at other countries [as well]?"

A: "Our nuclear program is aimed first and foremost at India. We have no other sources of threat."

Q: "Some Pakistani analysts say that the U.S. has plans to dismantle your country's nuclear weapons. Do you agree with this [analysis]?"

A: "The international community has never been happy about Pakistan having nuclear capabilities, and we have witnessed numerous attempts to negatively impact [our] nuclear program, for instance by imposing international sanctions and through nondisclosure of technological know-how. I am not aware of any attempts by foreign countries [to dismantle] Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, but I am certain that Pakistan is entirely capable of defending its sovereignty and its nuclear arms."

Q: "What are Dr. 'Abdul Qadeer Khan current whereabouts?"

A: (Looking at his watch and laughing): "He is currently at the dentist's, having complained of a toothache."

Q: "Is he required to inform you of everything he does?"

A: "According to a court ruling, he must inform us half an hour before leaving his house, except when he travels to Karachi to visit relatives, in which case he must inform us a full day before. In all instances, he is watched over by security personnel, in accordance with court rulings."

Q: "What were Dr. Khan's infractions?"

A: "I do not wish to speak of Dr. 'Abdul Qadeer's past. That is a closed case."

Pakistan Is Entitled to Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries

Q: "Will Pakistan agree to nuclear cooperation with other countries?"

A: "Pakistan has experience in the nuclear field, particularly in the domain of nuclear fuel production for peaceful purposes. It is our right to provide these services to other countries, such as Egypt and the [United Arab] Emirates, under IAEA supervision. We will not accept any attempts to isolate Pakistan, as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani emphasized at the April 2010 [Nuclear] Security Summit in Washington."


[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 12, 2010.

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