Islamabad, Nov 14: Amidst the apprehensions expressed by many that Pakistan"s nuclear weapons might be seized by the Taliban or al-Qaeda-linked militants, President General Pervez Musharraf has said that their nuclear arsenals are under “total custodial controls."
“We created a strategic planning division and we have a national command authority which is the overall organising institution into development and employment of strategic assets," the Daily Times quoted him as telling to the media.
This comes a day after Pakistan"s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq categorically said that its nuclear program was secure and "well guarded."
Responding to comments by the former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton and others in Washington, Sadiq said on Monday that there are “multiple layers of command and control and the weapons are not in danger of falling into any hands."
"Pakistan's nuclear program is very well guarded," he said, adding that he "would be very dismissive" of anyone who claims otherwise. The statement came in the wake of the media reports that the United States has developed contingency plans to safeguard Pakistani nuclear weapons if they risk falling into the wrong hands.
The Washington Post reported on Sunday that of the world's nine declared and undeclared nuclear arsenals, none provokes as much worry in Washington as Pakistan's.
The paper said that the government in Islamabad is arguably the least stable, adding that some Pakistani territory is partly controlled by insurgents bent on committing hostile acts of terrorism in the West.
"And officials close to the seat of power - such as nuclear engineer Dr AQ Khan - have a worrisome track record of transferring sensitive nuclear technology," said the news report.
Considering the graveness of the risks, US intelligence officials have long had contingency plans for intervening to obstruct such a theft in Pakistan, the paper said, citing "two knowledgeable officials".
The New York Times also reported that much of the fear in Washington last week was that the leaks in Pakistan's nuclear programme would resume and the government might even lose control over a nuclear arsenal of uncertain size, estimated at from 55 to 115 weapons.
The Bush administration officials have quietly begun debating just how bad things could get in a country whose nuclear controls are just seven years old and have never been tested by chaos, street turmoil or a violent government overthrow, the paper said.
"We just don't have any idea how this is going to unfold," one senior administration official was quoted by the NYT, as saying, adding, "There is some hope that the military as an institution could reliably keep things under control no matter who is in charge, but that is just a hope."