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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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Prof. Shaun Gregory has reported that in the past five years militants have attacked three Pakistani nuclear facilities/store houses at Wah, Sargoda air base and Kamran, exposing loopholes in Pakistans security regime for its nuclear weapons. On August 12, 2008, two suicide bombers attacked the gates of Pakistan ordnance factory wall killing, 70 people. It was the deadliest terrorist attack on a nuclear installation in Pakistans history. On October 24, 2009, 8 people were killed in a suicide attack on Pakistans air base complex, Kamran, which also stores nuclear weapons to be air-dropped.

Today Pakistan has worlds fastest growing nuclear arsenal. In the last four years, it has expanded from 60-80 warheads to over 110 nuclear weapons. Some in the West believe that Pakistan started preparing nuclear-tipped missiles in the middle of 1999 Kargil war. Pakistans nuclear warheads used the implosion design with a solid core of 15 to 20 Kg of enriched uranium. Pakistan now produces about 100 kg of enriched uranium in a year but is rapidly expanding its nuclear infrastructure with the help of China. Pakistan reportedly has several nuclear storage facilities though their exact locations are not known. They are mainly in the military bases. Although separate storage may provide a layer of protection against accidental launch or prevent seizure of an assembled weapon, it makes easier for unauthorized people to remove the weapons fissile material cores if they are not assembled. When the United States decided to launch attack on Afghan Talibans after Sept 11, 2001 President Parvez Musharraf reportedly ordered that Pakistans nuclear arsenals should be redeployed to at least in six secret new locations. At that time, Islamabad leadership was uncertain whether United States would decide to conduct strikes against Pakistans nuclear assets if Pakistan did not assist against the Taliban.

Pakistans nuclear weapons are handled by Pakistani armys Strategic Planning Division (SPD). This force comprises around 12 thousand personnel and it is headed by a Lieutenant General. SPD personnel have to pass Personal Reliability Program (PRP) and Human Reliability Program (HRP) before induction. Screenings are reportedly done every two years and sometimes randomly. After the A.Q. Khan scandal in 2004, these tests are being applied to senior personnel. The weapons are stored in underground sites with multiple security rings and guarded by big heavily armed SPD personnel. Experts are of the view that physically overwhelming these weapon sites will be very difficult but a highly plausible scenario is theft of fissile materials or fusing components used in the bomb by radicalized personnel in the SPD.

The pilfered materials could be used as a radiological device or what is called dirty bomb. It is a conventional explosive used to scatter radioactive materials. It spreads panic rather than inflicting mass casualties. Another possible use for the fissile materials is for building a simple implosion device and targets could be an Indian city. Today Pakistan is feverously producing nuclear weapons as well as fissile materials. The larger the number of weapons, the greater is the threat of leakage.

Previously India and Pakistan used to reassure themselves that neither side could use a nuclear weapon because aggressor would suffer from the fallout. That may no longer hold good after American decision in 2008 gave India civilian technology. This had stimulated Pakistans decision to strengthen its nuclear arsenal. It has now tested a new mobile missile with a miniaturized nuclear warhead designed to destroy tank formation with little radiation beyond the battle field. This has also increased the risk that border tension may escalate into something far more serious and lethal. Pakistani Generals are of the opinion that this tactical weapon would be able to meet the threats of rapid and punitive conventional thrusts by Indian forces against Pakistan.

US officials have so far conveyed confidence in the security of Islamabads nuclear weapons. American Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, stated in an interview, Jan 21, 2010, that US is very comfortable with security of Pakistans nuclear weapons. But a recent study by Mathew Bunn of Harvard Universitys Managing the Atom Project asserts that Pakistans stockpile faces a greater threat from Islamic extremists seizing nuclear weapons than any other nuclear stockpile on earth. According to Davis Albright, a noted nuclear proliferation analyst, Pakistans nuclear weapons are not thought to be one point safe or equipped with Permissive Action Links (PAL) meant to prevent unauthorized use of such weapons. PAL requires an entry code before such weapons can be armed and fired.

Again Pakistans nuclear assets remain vulnerable for another reason. From the outset, they have been deployed to the west of Pakistan to extend warning time of possible Indian attacks against them and delay overrun from the ground. The nuclear installations in the volatile regions of West and North-West of Islamabad remain exposed to the grave threats from the terrorists groups. In Pakistan control and decision-making regarding nuclear weapons is totally in the hands of the army despite periods of civilian rule. Former Prime Ministers of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are on record stating that were clearly out of the decision-making loop with regard to nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, Pakistan army is no longer a loyal professional and disciplined force as it was thought to be. The beard counts in the army has increased. Many young officers of post Zia-ul-Haq era have been radicalized. There is also a growing feeling among sections of the army that they are fighting against their own countrymen at the behest of the USA. It is reported in the New York Times that the Army Chief General Kayani is under pressure from anti-American, radicalized lower and middle ranks of the army for not adopting a tough line against the US. Reports of Colonels coup may be overstated.

However, if there is a collapse of command and control situation, and emergence of different power centres within the army, each will view the strategic arsenal as a real prize and that will be in every sense a nightmare scenario.


Sankar Sen, IPS (Retd.)
Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences
Former Director General National Human Rights Commission
Former Director National Police Academy


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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