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Possibility of takeover of Pakistani nuclear arsenal by extremists is exaggerated
Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani nuclear scientist, in his upcoming book, 'Confronting the Bomb', claims that Pakistani army insiders could be plotting to assert control over Pakistani nuclear capability by partly appropriating the assets. The claim appears to be deliberate and exaggerated.

According to a media report, Pakistani nuclear scientist Pervez Hoodbhoy in his upcoming book, “Confronting the Bomb”, published by Oxford University Press, USA , writes that the threat to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is from within the Pakistani army. Hoodbhoy writes that Pakistani army insiders in collusion with an unidentified Islamic group could be plotting to assert control over Pakistani nuclear capability by partly appropriating the assets.

Writing about the strategic plans division (SPD) set up by the then Pakistani President and Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf, Dr. Hoodbhoy writes that irrespective of genuineness of procedures and equipments, in the end it is the mindset and intentions that count more. The writer claims that there are “two Pakistani Armies; one led by General Pervez Ashraf Kayani and the other by Allah”. He says that threat to Pakistani nuclear arsenal by fundamentalists within is unprecedented and even non-fundamentalists are soft Islamists.

The book’s assertions may be deliberate to raise the level of fear about the control of nuclear weapons of Pakistan as it itself is written by a scientist teaching in a Pakistani University. Pakistani military may not care much about it and there could be vested reasons as to why the book and the report have been published. From Western viewpoint there is nothing new but even their viewpoint is more based on fantasy than on reality. The Pakistani military because of the disclosures may dream to get updated Western technologies without sticking to their conditions and norms. It could also initiate nuclear and conventional arms race in the subcontinent and the book, contradictorily, may appear to have been sponsored by green interests.

The fact is that long beard and caps worn on head and other signs of religious beliefs can’t make a person a fundamentalist or an extremist; it is political more than religious beliefs which make a person fundamentalist. If such yardstick is applied then almost half of the Pakistani military could be called as fundamentalist and zealot. The fact is that Indian military personnel also apply prayer marks on their forehead and they also worship Hindu Goddess Durga’s idol but they can’t be termed as religious bigots. Sure, there is a difference between Hindus and Muslims and there are also differences between Indian beliefs and Pakistani beliefs. But still the report appears highly exaggerated about Pakistani military establishment ability to keep its things under its control.

Pakistani military might be facing some problems from the insiders about security of its nuclear arsenal but it has more to do with its intelligence agencies’ links with various terrorists outfits and not because there are two militaries in Pakistan.

But the fact is that it is India which should worry maximum about the situation should its military top brass consider the report to be of some relevance. India is facing insurgency and various terrorist outfits are waging a war against Indian state in the ‘disputed territory of Kashmir’. As it is reported in the same edition of the newspaper that Laskhar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed may have told the visiting Huriyat delegation in December 2012; an umbrella under which Kashmiri separatists unite, that only armed struggle is the solution to ‘Kashmir dispute’. The terrorist organizations may daydream to get Pakistani nuclear weapons to attack India. But this is only wishful thinking as in all likelihood Pakistani army would never do such a daring act.

The reason is Pakistani defense establishment would be fully responsible for this act of transfer of nuclear assets to terrorists to attack India. This will be their conscious choice and internal squabbling and rifts cannot be blamed. In that case the Indian military would have full right to retaliate with nuclear weapons. As such Pakistani military is deliberately spinning a theory to increase proliferation in the subcontinent and thus trying to derail completely India’s 123 Civilian Nuclear Agreement with the US. The agreement is in jeopardy reportedly because of compensation issue to civilians in a nuclear accident but actually because of American non-proliferation concerns.

India is not the only country that would face the heat if Dr. Hoodbhoy’s assertions are even partly correct. And nobody should think that it is the Shia majority countries among the Islamic countries which would come under the possibility of nuclear terrorism. Even Saudi Arabia could feel threatened. The reason is simple; if the story is correct and if in real time it materializes then the Pakistani Islam would be very much amorphous in nature and Pakistan would be a bitterly divided country. Unless and until there are deep divisions within the Pakistani Union, the possibility of possession of nuclear weapons by the ‘second’ military and their transfer to extremists is impossibility. The internal issues would mirror more in any ‘coup’ in Pakistan.

The State Department and the Pentagon should have taken note of the book and its claims. Most probably their top brass would term the situation as highly improbable if not rubbish. But in public domain they may quote the book to increase their non-proliferation efforts. Pakistan could tolerate that its scientist has written such a book, which otherwise could be termed as anti-national even if the author is not booked under the charges of sedition, to lobby for a civilian nuclear agreement with the US. The most intriguing issue is that that the report says that Dr. Hoodbhoy is a Pakistani nuclear scientist. Instead of dreaming about liberty in Pakistan all concerned should think how and why a Pakistani scientist has made such claims. To which nationality and religion does Hoodbhoy belong?

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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