Pak shares confidential information about its nukes with West to allay fears

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Lahore, May 1 (ANI): In the face of a Taliban advance, senior Pakistani civil and military officials are sharing confidential information about the country's nuclear arms programme with Western countries in order to allay fears about the security of the weapons.

The decision highlights global concerns about the safety of up to 100 atom bombs in Pakistan's possession, as the Taliban advanced last week to within 100km of Islamabad, according to a Financial Times (FT) report.

According to the FT report, Western diplomats have said a Taliban advance on Islamabad threatened to bring them close to the country's nuclear installations. They doubted the Taliban were capable of overwhelming heavily protected facilities, it added.

A senior Western envoy in Islamabad said diplomats had been assured about the security in place for the weapons systems and also their distance from Taliban-held territory.

The report said the Pakistani officials presented this as an action to satisfy the West that its weapons would not fall into Taliban hands.

"We have renewed our pledge to keep our nuclear weapons safe," said an official. The briefings were meant to be reassuring to the international community in regard to safety measures.

The Pakistan Army said this week it had halted the latest Taliban incursion in Buner district of Malakand division, 100km north-west of Islamabad, after two days of fighting.

"We have successfully blocked Taliban advances and confined them just to a pocket," said Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

The report quoted Western diplomats as saying the nuclear programme resides in a "ring-fenced" part of the military under the command of a well-respected general and protected from rogue elements within the army that might seek to capture a weapon.

But although security improvements have been made, Pakistan has still to comply with the high levels recommended to it, it added. (ANI)

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