Washington, Sept 28: Pakistan and Russia are the two most vulnerable countries to nuclear theft, according to a new report by a prestigious Washington think-tank.
The report by the group called Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) says that of the states that have either nuclear weapons or significant amounts of high-quality weapons-usable materials, only Pakistan fares as poorly as Russia in Transparency International"s ratings of corruption levels.
It says that Pakistan"s nuclear stockpiles face huge threats from armed jihadi groups and nuclear insiders, who have in the past demonstrated sympathy for extreme jihadi causes.
“If al Qaeda terrorists can twice come close to assassinating President (Pervez) Musharraf with help from Pakistani military officers, who can rule out the possibility that other military officers guarding nuclear weapons might be convinced to help Al Qaeda?" the Dawn quoted the NTI report as saying.
Author of the report Mathew Bunn says that although the United States and Pakistan have nuclear security cooperation, Islamabad does not allow actual US visits to its sensitive nuclear sites, and what precisely has been accomplished in this cooperation remains a secret.
He goes on to say that in November 2001, President George W. Bush asked former CIA director George Tenet to fly to Pakistan the next day to convince Musharraf to take action against the scientists trying to help al Qaeda develop a nuclear weapon.
During Tenet"s visit, Musharraf assured the former that Pakistani nuclear experts had dismissed the possibility that men hiding in caves could build a nuclear bomb. But Tenet replied that Musharraf"s experts were wrong, pointing out the relative ease of making a crude gun-type nuclear bomb, and al Qaeda"s efforts to get help from Pakistani nuclear scientists.
It warns against the possibility of guards at Pakistani nuclear installations taking bribes to open gates, managers taking bribes to hire new staff without checking their backgrounds, opening gaping holes in the country"s nuclear security systems.
Warning that either state collapse or the rise of an extremist Islamic government in Pakistan could pose severe dangers of nuclear assets becoming available to terrorists or hostile states, the report asks: “If 41 heavily armed terrorists can strike without warning in the middle of Moscow, how many might appear at a Pakistani nuclear weapon storage site? Would the guards at the site be sufficient to hold them off and would the guards choose to fight or to cooperate?"
The NTI, established by CNN founder Ted Turner, includes several US senators and international figures such as Nafisa Sadik of Pakistan, Indian Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.