Dawn : Nukes unlikely to be affected by Musharraf resignation

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nukes unlikely to be affected by Musharraf resignation

August 19, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug 19 (AP)- Pervez Musharraf's departure from the presidency is unlikely to have any impact on how Pakistan's nuclear weapons are controlled.

Experts say a 10-member committee, and not just the president, makes decisions on how to use them and only a complete meltdown in governance -- still a distant prospect in Pakistan -- could put the atomic bomb in the hands of extremists.

“Pakistan's nuclear assets are not one man's property,” said Maria Sultan, a defense analyst and director at the London-based South Asian Strategic Stability Institute.

“Any (political) transition in Pakistan will have no effect on Pakistan's nuclear assets because it has a very strong custodial control.”

The committee, known as the National Command and Control Authority, is served by a military-dominated organization with thousands of security forces and intelligence agents whose personnel are closely screened.

The nuclear facilities are tightly guarded.

“The reality is that Pakistan's government exists on different levels. One of the levels it exists and works at is in the control of its nuclear weapons,” said Patrick Cronin, director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington. “Where it does not work is in providing effective services, jobs, education and health that people need.”

“Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is in the hands of the army and the army is not changing hands, so whatever the situation was before is largely what it will continue to be,” said Teresita Schaffer, director of the South Asia Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.