London, Nov 22: A British think-tank, the Pakistan Security Research Unit (PSRU), has warned that in the current political turbulence the chances of Pakistan"s nuclear assets falling into the hands of tribal militants has increased as most of them are located in the North and West of the country.
The PSRU, based in the University of Bradford, UK, has said in a publication titled "The Security of Nuclear Pakistan", that the country"s nuclear infrastructure is at increasing risk of attack by tribal and militant elements.
Professor Shaun Gregory has claimed in a paper that Pakistan established many of its nuke sites to the country"s north and west to safeguard it from an Indian threat.
"But this had placed them close to areas presently dominated by the Taliban and tribal militants groups," Gregory said.
It further claimed that these tribal and Taliban militants were growing in confidence and in numbers and might launch an assault against a part of Pakistan"s nuclear weapons infrastructure.
"They may seek to take possession of nuclear weapons or components but they could also seek to create a radiological hazard by using explosives or fire to try to destroy the weapons," the paper said.
The paper maintained that there existed growing antipathy in the Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies towards the West and growing sympathy for some extremist/terrorist groups.
This, the paper feared, raised the possibility that nuclear weapons security could be compromised by collusion either between renegade military personnel or between such personnel and extremists/terrorists.
Citing comparable statistics from the US of "unreliable" staff removed from nuclear weapons duties, the paper says four to five percent of staff at these sites are "unreliable" at any given time, but adds that "not all these will constitute a threat" to the security of the sites.
The paper further said "this may mean that 1 in 25 of those in Pakistan with nuclear duties are unreliable at any one time, though not all these will constitute a threat to nuclear weapons security."
"In the present context of political instability President Musharraf"s control may be weakening and Pakistan may become even more porous in leaking nuclear secrets," the paper asserted.
"Musharraf is being disingenuous in arguing that the military has to run the country for nuclear weapons to be safe," it added.
Pakistan has "technical, personnel reliability, physical security and secrecy deception measures" in place to protect its nuclear assets, the Dawn quoted the paper, as saying.