By: Tahir Nazir

Jun 13, 2018

 In 2009, then US President Barak Obama announced the plan to hold a Nuclear Security Summit to increase awareness regarding potential terrorist threats posed against nuclear material nuclear facilities, at the highest level. And also, to formulate a joint action plan to deal with the continuously evolving complex security threat i.e. in the shape of nuclear terrorism, using radiological or nuclear material to make dirty bombs and subsequently use them to disperse radioactive material against civilian populations to achieve their political objectives.

In this context, successive nuclear security summits i.e. 2010, 2012, 2014 and the concluding one in 2016 at Washington, laid strong but normative standards for the security of the nuclear and radiological materials.

Pakistan being an established nuclear state along with the 53 states having attended all the nuclear summits has time and again exhibited its nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear safety and nuclear security credentials in front of the international community. In response to these endeavors, international community, especially the former US President Obama acknowledged, and reposed confidence on Pakistan’s robust nuclear command and control system.

As a mature nuclear state, Pakistan has been continuously engaged with different international regimes and treaties which prohibit the nuclear material, knowledge and dual-use technology. Pakistan has signed and ratified the IAEA Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material in 2000, also participating in the activities of the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) 1540 and submitted a report to the Committee. Pakistan has an observer status at the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a U.S led initiative to counter nuclear proliferation. In addition to this, Pakistan joined the US-sponsored Container Security Initiative (CSI) in March 2006[1] and endorsed Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) in June 2007. By joining these International Conventions and Initiatives, Pakistan clearly demonstrated that it is a responsible nuclear state, committed to non-proliferation, global peace and stability.

Pakistan’s decision to ratify the Conventions on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities’ (CPPNM) Amendments 2005, once again demonstrated, the country’s commitment and enforced the importance it attaches to physical protection of nuclear materials and nuclear security. Undoubtedly, the ratification of the CPPNM enhanced and reinforced Pakistan’s international nuclear credentials and helped to attain international community’s recognition in order to access civil nuclear technology and meet the growing demand of energy, subsequently stepping closer to meet the Paris agreement objectives and reducing carbon emissions.

To ensure the safety of nuclear power plants and associated facilities, Pakistan has established the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) as a watchdog to oversee all aspects of nuclear civil applications. In addition, Pakistan has an extensive export control regime which is at par with the same standard followed by the “Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, and the Australia Group.”

In its bid to strengthen the global nuclear security architecture, Pakistan has offered its services to the international community with regards to nuclear security training. In 2014[2], Pakistan established the Centre of Excellence on Nuclear Security (PCENS). Through joint initiatives with IAEA, Pakistan organized multiple courses and training workshops for the professionals working in the field of nuclear safety and security.

Additionally, Pakistan established the Nuclear Emergency Management System (NEMS)[3] at the national level to handle nuclear and radiological emergencies. And Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Support Centre (NURESC) along with the Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Coordination Center (NRECC) which provides technical guidance to licensees and users of nuclear and radiation facilities, in case of an emergency and coordinate the response.

On the question of creating a parallel institution to oversee nuclear security, Pakistan views the “nuclear security summit process as a catalyst of fostering nuclear security culture” rather then creating a “new, parallel institutions or mechanisms for nuclear security”. Fundamentally, nuclear security is the responsibility of individual states. It is partly true that the existing nuclear security architecture is appropriate and possess the ability to deal with the current as well as potential futuristic challenges. Furthermore, it is absolutely essential to strengthen the role of International Atomic Energy Agency to reinforce the global nuclear order for peace and prosperity.

While looking at Pakistan’s current nuclear security regime, it is understandable that its nuclear security architecture has considerably improved and is now more aligned to the international best practices. Pakistan has a robust command and control system, in the form of Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) and Strategic Plans Division (SPD). These strategic organizations review “all aspects of policy, procurement, operations, and, most importantly nuclear security”.

The recent visit of Yukia Armano, DG International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Pakistan is a testament to the country’s outstanding partnership with the IAEA and its significance as an important nuclear state. While speaking at international conference in Karachi, Mr. Armano stated that “Karachi nuclear power plants heavily protected” and the IAEA greatly values cooperation with Pakistan in peaceful uses of nuclear technology.”[4] He conveyed complete confidence and trust on Pakistan’s nuclear security regime.

While keeping in view the country’s established nuclear regime, Pakistan is fully eligible to become the member of the NGS. On the basis of internationally acknowledged nuclear non-proliferation record, Pakistan on 19 May 2016[5] submitted its formal application for the membership of the Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG) to the Chairman of NSG.

That said, the NSG was created as a result of India’s so-called ‘peaceful’ nuclear explosion in 1974[6], which demonstrated that nuclear technology acquired for peaceful purposes could be diverted for advancing military program. Ironically, the very state i.e. India, cheated the international non-proliferation safeguards, again received the NSG waiver in 2008 with the support of United States. Hence, it has not just eroded the international nonproliferation principles but also set a dangerous precedent that a Non-NPT state without giving any legally binding commitment, can manipulate the established nuclear nonproliferation normative order.

As stated above, Pakistan, has a robust nuclear safety and security regime but due to global power politics and regional geopolitical alliance structure, it has been bared to get access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. It is high time for the NSG members’ to revisit their “Cold War” style approach and create “criteria led approach” for new entrants and judge their credentials accordingly. Furthermore, inclusion of Pakistan into the NSG will only strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and a potential step towards the universalization of NPT.

It would be prudent for NSG members’ states to give a level playing field to Pakistan in competing for the membership of NSG. Notably, any “discriminatory approach” in the context of expansion of NSG, would potentially weaken the NPT regime. And, any sign of weakening of the treaty would have a colossal impact on the health of global non-proliferation regime (NPR). Moreover, discriminatory policies based on “balance of power’ will not bring peace, rather further complicate the regional and global security landscape.


Tahir Nazir is a research associate at the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS). The views expressed by the author do not represent the institute. He tweets @tahirdss

[1] Nawaz Zafar, “Pakistan’s nuclear weapons safety and security,” The Nation, February 23, 2013, http://nation.com.pk/23-Feb-2013/pakistan-s-nuclear-weapons-safety-and-security, (Accessed on 25, May 2018).

[2] Ministry of Foreign Affairs Government of Pakistan, Pakistan’s National Statement Nuclear Security Summit Washington, 31 March – 1 April 2016, http://www.mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzYwNA, (Accessed on 25, May 2018).

[3] ibid

[4] “Karachi nuclear power plants heavily protected: IAEA chief,” Dawn, March 15, 2018, https://www.dawn.com/news/1395361 (Accessed on 26, May 2018).

[5] Ministry of Foreign Affairs Government of Pakistan, Pakistan applies for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), http://mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzczOA, (Accessed on 28, May 2018).

[6] Hart, David. “Nuclear power in India: a comparative analysis.” (1983).

Send this to a friend