Transfer of 'nuclear button' to Gilani would hardly make any difference

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New York, Nov.29 (ANI): Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's sudden decision to hand over the 'nuclear button' to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is unlikely to make any difference, as it is the Army which has always controlled nuclear decisions in the country.

Moreover, Zardari's sudden move, which came just hours after the expiration of the special amnesty (National Reconciliation Ordinance, NRO), is expected to complicate the AFPAK strategy which is likely to be unveiled by President Obama on Tuesday.

The Pakistan Army has always maintained a tight clutch on country's nuclear establishments, with top officers dominating the National Command Authority (NCA).

Many of the day-to-day operations, including those most of concern in Washington, concerning nuclear security, are made in a small compound near the Islamabad airport by the Special Plans Division, run by General. Khalid Kidwai, The New York Times reports.

General Khalid was appointed to the post by the then Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

"General Kidwai remained in place after Zardari took office as the country's elected president. It also suggested that, save for the names on an organization chart, little changed in practice," the newspaper said.

Pakistani officials also believed that the move would, which saw Gilani being handed over the post of NCA chairman, would hardly have any practical effect.

"Nothing changes except that Zardari has removed one possible irritant with nuclear hawks," said a Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Although Zardari's move is unlikely to harm Pakistan's nuclear stability, it is the political stability of the country which is critical for the Obama administration, which is set to announce its new strategy for the region in couple of days.

"Pakistan is a central part of that strategy, and the country has been under tremendous pressure by the administration to step up its fight against militants from the Taliban and Al Qaeda," observers said.

The Pakistan Army had objected vociferously to the massive US civilian aid for Pakistan (the Kerry Lugar Bill) announced months ago, the fact Washington must be aware of and certainly keep in mind while working out the new policy for the region. (ANI)

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