KARACHI: Pakistan on Monday provided an in-depth peek into its ‘stringent’ nuclear safety mechanisms as it participated in a global summit on nuclear security in Vienna.
Titled ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Security Regime’, the booklet released alongside the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) third International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS) aims to demonstrate the country’s “commitment and contribution to the global objectives of nuclear security.”
“This step is part of Pakistan’s practice to share information on the measures taken to further strengthen nuclear security and to demonstrate the high-level attention that nuclear security continues to receive in Pakistan,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. It added that the document was being distributed among all ICONS participants.
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The booklet, a copy of which The Express Tribune was able to obtain, outlines Pakistan’s nuclear safety regime in the form of three ‘pillars’, namely legislative and regulatory framework, state institutions and organisations, and the security systems and measures.
Laying out the first of these, the document explains that the legislative and regulatory framework includes “establishing independent regulatory bodies with adequate legal authority to fulfill their assigned nuclear security responsibilities,” such as the National Command Authority (NCA), Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) and Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV).
“In order to cover the entire spectrum of activities, the NCA Act was promulgated in 2010… [with] wide jurisdiction and adequate legal authority to regulate activities of various entities working within its domain,” the booklet states. It also highlights legal frameworks that existed prior to the NCA Act, such as the PAEC and PNRA ordinances, and the Strategic Export Control Act, which strengthens export controls on “sensitive and dual use goods/technologies related to nuclear and biological weapons and their means of delivery.”
To prevent unauthorised removal of nuclear material and curb the risk of sabotage, PNRA promulgated ‘Regulations on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Installations — (PAK/925)’ last April, the booklet notes. “This regulation takes into consideration IAEA’s Nuclear Security Recommendations on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities and the obligations of Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.”
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Outlining the country’s nuclear security architecture, the document emphasises a ‘multi-layered defence’ as its cornerstone. “A concept of 5Ds – deter, detect, delay, defend and destroy – is followed to respond to these threats,” it states.
For physical protection, the booklet explains that Pakistan has deployed modern technological solutions, such as intrusion detection systems, access control systems, delay barriers and search systems and a central alarm station. “In addition, land-based and sea-borne response capabilities of response forces have also been strengthened,” it adds.
The booklet highlights the ‘effective’ National Nuclear Detection Architecture (NNDA) to regulate authorised imports and exports and prevent illicit trafficking of radioactive materials. “Designated entry/ exit points have been equipped with hand held radiation detection equipment as well as radiation portal monitors (RPMs),” it states.
It also reveals that a Nuclear Emergency Management System (NEMS) has been put in place to respond and manage nuclear or radiological emergencies. “Under this system, technical expertise will be provided by PAEC and PNRA; administrative coordination would be done by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA); while NCA would offer support to address nuclear or radiological emergency.”
To build capacity and human resources for nuclear security, the country has also established the Pakistan Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security, National Institute of Safety and Security and the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences, it points out.
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Finally, the booklet also highlights the international instruments the country adheres to in order to ensure a robust nuclear security architecture, such as the IAEA Code of Conduct, UN Security Council Resolution 1540, Nuclear Security Summit Process, Nuclear Security Contact Group and Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
“In the months and years ahead, Pakistan looks forward to working closely with IAEA and its member states to ensure nuclear security continues to receive high level attention, appropriate salience in the agency’s work, unfailing vigilance at the national level and robust international cooperation,” it concludes.
In the foreword he wrote for it, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood notes that the booklet “reflected Pakistan’s commitment towards ensuring a comprehensive national nuclear security regime.”
“Nuclear security is a state responsibility and it receives the highest level of attention in Pakistan in accordance with our domestic and international obligations,” he writes, adding that the regime is based on “extensive legislative and regulatory framework” and backed by “strong institutions and organisations”.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, some of Pakistan’s pre-eminent defence experts noted that the country’s spotless nuclear safety record attested to the robustness of its security regime.
“We have a very effective command and control structure and our nuclear workforce operates under a very strict and secure framework,” said Maj Gen (retd) Inamul Haque. “The mere fact that there has been no nuclear incident – no accident or alert, no theft of nuclear material or kidnapping of any of our nuclear programme personnel – even though we were in a state of war for 15 years is a testament.”
“Our nuclear safety record proves itself to be very credible and speaks for itself. By and large, this credibility has only enhanced with time and the credit for that goes to both our nuclear scientists and nuclear managers,” added Lt-Gen (retd) Talat Masood. “We do not take anything for granted and the custodians of our nuclear assets do not rest on past laurels. The safety of our nuclear assets continues to be a primary focus for our civil and military authorities,” he stressed.
Speaking about concerns the global community voices every now and then regarding Pakistan’s nuclear programme, both analysts concurred it was driven by some ‘malice’.
“When we speak of nuclear concerns, there are two different camps in the world,” said Talat. “The first of these is concerned about nuclear proliferation as a whole and is opposed to the very existence of nuclear weapons no matter which country’s arsenal they are part of. The concerns of this camp as such are generalised and are a different matter entirely.”
“The second camp that is focused on particular nations only, at least in Pakistan’s case, is motivated by malicious reasons,” he added.
According to Inam, concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear programme mainly stemmed from the ‘A Q Khan episode’. “That incident continues to colour world opinion about our nuclear safety but these repeatedly voiced concerns are by now just propaganda,” he said. “To counter that, we have to keep repeating our message and that is where this booklet comes in.”
The booklet is the second version of ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Security Regime’, which was first published in the form of a brochure on the sidelines of the previous ICONS in 2016.