Jun 102008

Lt-Gen (r) Hamid Nawaz Khan

Secondly, the nuclear threshold is directly proportional to the conventional weapons capability. The weaker of the two adversaries will be constrained first to use nuclear weapons. In any future war with India, in all probability, Pakistan will be forced to first use of nuclear weapons if its nuclear threshold is crossed due to major territorial losses, forces attrition or economic degradation.Credibility of deterrence wholly rests in the perceived ability of the decision-makers to take this next-to-impossible decision at the most critical moment, to demonstrate the will and determination of the nation to safeguard her national interests. This really is the backbone of nuclear deterrence.

Israeli Intelligence experts, once debating the failure of their deterrence in the Arab-Israel war of 1973, concluded that “there is no deterrence against an irrational enemy.” In the popular world perception a Muslim leader, while fighting for the cause of Islam, could be irrational and if required, could order a nuclear strike, unmindful of the consequences. Such fears are considered well founded in dictatorial or theocratic forms of government as opposed to democratic rule. In any case, nuclear deterrence is based on three elements – the capability, acknowledgement by the adversary that this capability exists in the form of weapon delivery means; and most importantly, the resolve of the decision makers to use the capability in national interest if dictated by the circumstances. Perceived irrationality on the part of decision makers thus reinforces the deterrence and therefore should be drummed up rather than toned down. It surely is a paradoxical situation for Pakistan.

Since last year there has been an upsurge of terrorism and suicide attacks throughout Pakistan. Militancy that was restricted to areas adjacent to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border spread out not only to the whole of FATA but even to the provincially administered areas of Swat. Large-scale operations had to be launched by the Army to re-establish the writ of the government. Balochistan further compounded the situation. Almost every foreign embassy issued travel advisories and also instructed its nationals in Pakistan to restrict their movement and arrange security for themselves and their families. Overall the law and order picture in the country was indeed grim but was further blown out of proportion by the media. It was in the backdrop of this environment that foreign media and think tanks started casting doubts about the safety and security of our nuclear assets. They need to realise that it is one thing to kill innocent people and security personnel on public thoroughfares or political gatherings, but quite another to overrun and gain control of the country of more than 160 million people with such a large army and extensive law and order setup.

In fact, none of the suicide attacks, so far, has been able to penetrate the outermost security cordon of headquarters or installations that have been hit. However, it is important for us to fully comprehend the underlying theme of the foreign fear, totally unfounded, that should the extremists and terrorists gain physical control of Pakistan, the nuclear assets will automatically fall into their hands. Realistically speaking, this possibility falls into the realm of fantasy.

When the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) swept the elections in 2002, formed the government in the NWFP and shared power in Balochistan, it sent out danger signals to the United States and the western world. It projected a more potent possibility of Islamic extremists gaining a legitimate control over Pakistan’s nuclear assets, should they perform even better in the next elections. Poor performance by MMA in the recent elections has been greeted with a sigh of relief by all concerned. However, this eventuality is going to remain a constant source of worry for the liberal and secular world.

Muslims all over the globe insist that there is a world conspiracy against Islam and, consequently, against an “Islamic Bomb”. This perception implies that the secular world will not tolerate the possession of a nuclear device by a fanatic Muslim state. This means that firstly Muslim countries are to be prevented from becoming extremists which means ensuring that Islamists do not take political control. Secondly, the idea is to prevent the possibility of a Muslim country acquiring nuclear capability. In this context, Pakistan and Iran merit different treatment. Iran has theocratic rule and therefore should be prevented from acquiring nuclear capability; while Pakistan, which is already in possession of a nuclear device, is not a theocratic state in any practical sense of the word.

The issue of security of nuclear assets is closely linked with political stability and the country’s internal security situation. Politico-religious polarisation; confrontational politics and militant extremism are continuously pulling the state fabric apart. A weak economy, lack of foreign investment and acute energy shortages indicate, besides many other factors, a poor power potential not worthy of a nuclear-capable state. Continuous hostility with India, resulting in indecisive and self-destructive wars and prolonged military rule, also adds to this troubling state of affairs.

It is time to evolve a balanced foreign policy commensurate with our actual power potential. Internally, we need to develop tolerance for difference of opinion on all national issues and concentrate more on nation-building strategies. Economic development, an improved internal security environment, strong democratic institutions and a progressive education programme should take priority in all future planning. Extensive analysis should be carried out to find out reasons why Pakistan has lagged behind while many other countries that got their independence, at about the same time, have taken major strides in economic development.

One can say that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are absolutely safe and secure in all manners. However, we need to fight and eliminate the menace of terrorism and militant extremism. We also need to put our house in order. A democratic and economically stable Pakistan can take care of all threats to her security.

The writer was a federal secretary for defence and federal interior minister in the interim government of caretaker prime minister Mohammadmian Soomro. Email: gen.hnkhan@gmail.com

Source: The News, 10/6/2008

 Posted by at 7:12 am

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