Indian Express 27 Jun 2007 by Shubhajit Roy
Tag: Pervez A Hoodbhoy, Quaid-e-Azam University
Posted: Mon Jun 27 2011, 03:24 hrs Pakistan’s establishment lacks the ability to keep its nuclear weapons safe, says one of the country’s top nuclear experts, pointing out that the weapons are guarded by personnel of the Pakistan Army which has been infiltrated for decades by radical elements.
Pervez A Hoodbhoy, who teaches nuclear physics at Islamabad’s government-run Quaid-e-Azam University, spoke to The Indian Express in Islamabad. His comments came amid growing concerns on the safety of nuclear weapons in Pakistan.
“It doesn’t matter whether Pakistan’s chief of army staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani swears on the Quran that he will make sure that nuclear weapons will be safe. The question is, does he have the power to do that?” said Hoodbhoy, 60, who has a PhD from MIT.
“It seems to me that the Pakistan Army is playing with fire. It knows that these nuclear weapons are ultimately in the hands of their own people and their own people have been affected by decades of radicalisation. They may claim that they have personnel reliability tests, but I don’t believe that answering questions on a form may indicate his intentions,” he said.
He dismissed Pakistan Interior (Home) Minister Rehman Malik’s recent assertion that the country’s nukes are 200 per cent safe. “Now Rehman Malik must be a genius to have come up with the figure of 200 per cent. How he arrives at that we have no idea, but that is what the Pakistan military wants us to believe and to unquestionably accept that the nuclear weapons have been provided security in Pakistan…which, personally I don’t believe,” he said.
“So to come up with wild figures, I don’t believe there is source of any reassurance to the people of Pakistan or to the thinking people. We have seen the infiltration of radicals into the ranks of the Army. Very recently, a brigadier and four majors have been arrested. And our brigadiers are in charge of missile regiments too. So where things could go, I don’t know.”
He said that the Pakistan establishment is in a “state of denial” in spite of the fact that there have been repeated attacks on the headquarters of the Army and the ISI.
The repeated assertion in Pakistan, he said, is that nuclear weapons have so many layers of security that it would be impossible to penetrate them. “But this is something that the world obviously questions,” he said, adding that the reason is no matter how many technical precautions you take, “ultimately, it is the people who handle the nuclear weapons, just as the people are responsible for the defence of the Army, Air Force and Navy bases”.
He referred to the recent attack on the Pakistan Navy airbase in Mehran, where a handful of people were “so well-informed by the insiders” that they managed to keep defenders at bay for over 18 hours, and destroyed two of Pakistan’s most valuable aircraft.
“So the worry that something similar may happen with the nuclear weapons crosses everybody’s mind… therefore, even if the strategic plans division says everything is fine, that does not reassure everybody.”
He said India and Pakistan “are locked in an arms race”, adding, “Pakistan is building as many nuclear weapons as it can. They have very little utility... they provide a cover under which (there is) yet another spurt of nuclear weapons production.”