"Loose NBCs" in Pakistan?


"Imagine if the (swine flu) spread were intentional, not natural, and the virus’ lethality had been artificially enhanced. Pakistan has many dangerous diseases and pathogens under its control. The Nunn-Lugar program can help secure the pathogen strains to ensure they do not fall into the wrong hands. Equally important, the U.S. can assist Pakistan in establishing a system designed to detect, characterize and respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases," US Senator Richard Lugar, ranking member of the US Senate's foreign relations committee, said last week.

While Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability is well known, the country has had no publicly known chemical warfare (CW) program in the past. Pakistan has also signed and ratified the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and remains a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in good standing, according to NTI. Pakistan is self-sufficient in the production of chemicals such as sulfuric acid, caustic soda, soda ash, and chlorine. However, it relies on imports for most of the raw materials and intermediates for dyes, pigments, paints, varnishes, pesticides, plastics, and fertilizers. Although Pakistan likely has the technical capability to produce choking, blood, blister, and nerve, agents for use in chemical warfare, the Pakistani government is legally committed to refrain from developing, manufacturing, stockpiling, or using chemical weapons.

Although allegations have been leveled against Pakistan for conducting research into biological warfare since the early 1990s, Pakistan is not suspected of either producing or stockpiling biological weapons (BW). However, it is generally believed that Pakistan has a well developed bio-technology sector that is capable of supporting limited biological warfare-related research and development. In 1996, the U.S. Department of Defense stated that Pakistan "had the resources and capabilities appropriate to conducting research and development relating to biological warfare," and "was conducting research and development with potential biological warfare applications." But the U.S. government has not presented any evidence to corroborate its assertions, according to NTI.

Raising alarm about Pakistan's weapons of mass destruction and NBC weapons capability, Senator Lugar is advocating extending the 18-year-old Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program to secure and eliminate nuclear materials and other potential WMD ingredients in Pakistan.

"Initially, Nunn-Lugar was restricted to the former Soviet Union. In 2003, I wrote legislation, signed into law by the president, authorizing the Nunn-Lugar program to operate outside the former Soviet Union," Lugar said in a statement. "This authority can and should be used to expand significantly our cooperation with Pakistan in the nuclear arena as well as in other critical areas."

Lugar is not alone in sounding the alarm about Pakistan. The French officials have also chimed in. "Today the Taliban are making progress not just in Afghanistan but in the Pakistani interior itself, and at the end of this road there's a stock of nuclear weapons," said Pierre Lellouche, France's special envoy to Pakistan.

Taliban militants "are nibbling away and fear is settling into people's hearts," Lellouche said. "We shouldn't think of columns of Taliban descending on the capital. It's more complicated than that. We are seeing the rampant Talibanization of areas close to the capital, a mental Talibanization".

It appears from the increasing discussions in the West that many Pakistanis' fears about attempts to denuclearize Pakistan are no longer seen as just baseless propaganda or extreme paranoia. Some of the popular conspiracy theorists believe that the US and its western allies are deliberately trying to create the nuclear "threat perceptions" as an excuse to take away Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Speculations are rampant about Pakistan's denuclearization efforts by the West. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad and one of the few open critics of Pakistan’s nuclear program in the country, told DW-World that many argue that the Americans are exaggerating the Taliban issue: “There are growing conspiracy theories here that actually the Taliban have been put up by the Americans so that the country is destabilized and, looking at the destabilization, well, then it becomes logical and necessary for the Americans to come in and seize our nuclear weapons.”

At a White House press conference earlier this month, US President Barack Obama said that he feels confident that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.

According to The Times of India, a reporter insisted on a more precise reply, asking if in the worst case scenario, the US military could secure the nuclear weapons. Obama responded, "I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands. Okay?"

During his recent US visit, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said Islamabad is not adding to its nuclear arsenal as it does not need any more, but it would not disclose the location of its weapons to the US. Pakistan is "not adding to our stockpile as such", Zardari said on NBC's Meet the Press host. "Why do we need more?"

India's interest in disarming Pakistan is also raising concerns in Pakistan. Respected American South Asia expert Stephen Cohen of Washington's Brookings Institution has recently told his audience: "Not a few Indian generals and strategists have told me that if only America would strip Pakistan of its nuclear weapons then the Indian army could destroy the Pakistan army and the whole thing would be over."

Based on the the ongoing expression of fear in America and Europe, it seems almost certain that the US has contingency plans in place to relieve Pakistan of its nuclear weapons if Washington feels that the Islamic nation's nuclear arsenal is about to fall into the militant hands. According to Fox News, the US commando units in Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have been training in Nevada desert to carry out President Obama's order to secure Pakistani nukes. "We have plans to secure them ourselves if things get out of hand," Fox quoted a U.S. intelligence source who has deployed to Afghanistan as saying. "That is a big secondary mission for JSOC in Afghanistan." JSOC is made up of three main elements: Army Delta Force, Navy SEALs and a high-tech special intelligence unit known as Task Force Orange. JSOC was instrumental in Iraq in finding and killing Abu Musab Zarqawi, the deadly and most prominent Al Qaeda leader in the Middle East.

Many Pakistanis are hearing echoes of the pre-Iraq war WMD propaganda to justify the US invasion of the Muslim Middle Eastern country in 2002. The continuing U.S. media campaign about Pakistani nukes are likely to further alarm people in Pakistan and reinforce their suspicions about the real US intentions in the region.

Here is a video about US WMD concerns in Pakistan:



Related Links:

Lugar Urges CTR Expansion to Pakistan

Cooperative Threat Reduction Program

Propaganda Recycled: US Report Blames Pakistan For Future WMD Attack

Obama Confident on Pakistani Nukes?

US Plans to Secure Pakistani Nukes

India-Pakistan Military Balance

Pakistan Questions Safety of US Nukes

Are US Gentlemen Attempting to Annex Islamic Pakistan?

Indian Hostility Toward Pakistan

US Alarmed About Pakistani Nukes

Pakistan's Defense Production

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
#China: National defense force on biosecurity urged amid #COVID19 outbreak. #Military, temporarily mobilized and assembled, has already shown its capacity to tackle the ongoing #CoronaOutbreak threat through its efforts, the experts said. - Global Times https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1181343.shtml#.Xl0j4zSepOo.twitter

A permanent national defense force on biosecurity should be established and led by China's military, as the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) outbreak shows that China is not fully prepared to efficiently deal with a biological disaster or even potential warfare, which can have as great an impact as a conventional regional war, Chinese experts said on Monday. 

The military, temporarily mobilized and assembled, has already shown its capacity to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak threat through its efforts, the experts said.  

Wu Qian, a spokesperson at the Ministry of National Defense, declined to directly comment on the experts' opinions, but he said at a Monday press conference held by the State Council Information Office that the COVID-19 epidemic highlights the importance of biosecurity, and strengthening national biosecurity is a common practice among international society.

Military expert Peng Guangqian said in a February article that biological threats are a new type of warfare, which may come from biomutation or a vicious enemy. The threat may not feature a declaration of war or a concrete battlefield and may not distinguish between military and civilian personnel. 

This epidemic shows China is not fully ready, and that it should have a strategic plan on national biosecurity, like building a national defense force on biosecurity directly led by the Central Military Commission, Peng said.

Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that a major infectious disease can have as great an impact on Chinese politics, economy and society as a regional war, as shown in the COVID-19 outbreak, so building a permanent force dedicated to dealing with these potential threats is necessary.

China has decided to include biosecurity into its national security system, systematically plan the construction of national biosecurity risk control and management system and comprehensively boost the country's capability to govern national biosecurity in a bid to safeguard public health, ensure national security and safeguard the country's long-term peace and stability, Wu said.

China will also draft a biosecurity law at the earliest opportunity and establish a legal and systematic support system to secure national biosecurity, Wu noted.

Establishing a dedicated military unit is viable because China's armed forces have shown how capable they are in dealing with COVID-19, and in doing so, have won wide trust and respect among the Chinese people, Wang said. He noted that China had established a military unit focused on public health in 2006 but was not able to develop it into a larger force, however, China could now expand on this previous experience.

When no imminent biological threat is present in China, this force can also conduct and participate in humanitarian aid missions in foreign countries and regions, which will not only enhance the force's capabilities, but also boost China's international leadership and participation in global governance, Wang said.

Peng told the Global Times on Monday that other flexible solutions like building a dedicated institution or a special unit that is not necessarily a new military branch are also viable, as long as biosecurity is effectively included in China's national security system.

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