Nervous about losing their nuclear bombs to snatch teams from either the US or India, Pakistan goes to elaborate lengths to protect them, even moving them around in unmarked, unprotected vehicles, according to a news report.
“Nuclear-weapons components are sometimes moved by helicopter
and sometimes moved over roads,” said The Atlantic magazine. “And instead of moving nuclear material in armored, well-defended convoys, the SPD prefers to move material by subterfuge, in civilian-style vehicles without noticeable defenses, in the regular flow of traffic.”
The Strategic Plans Division (SPD) is the Pakistani outfit entrusted with the security of the country’s arsenal of nuclear weapons. The security of this arsenal has worried the international community, especially of it falling into the hands of terrorists, many of which – the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba – operate there openly, and with government support.
There are fears of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of these groups or rogue elements within the Pakistani establishment or, worse still, extremists taking over the government; in a coup, for instance.
But Pakistan seems more concerned about the weapons being snatched by the US.
Immediately after the US raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden, Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani’s had sought from the SPD details of its plans on how it plans to prevent a similar raid to snatch nuclear weapons.
SPD chief general Kidwai had assured the plan was good.Moving the weapons around was a part of that plan.
“Vans with a modest security profile are sometimes the preferred conveyance,” the report said, citing US and Pakistani sources, adding, “And according to a senior US intelligence official, the Pakistanis have begun using this low-security method to transfer not merely the “de-mated” component nuclear parts but “mated” nuclear weapons.”
Since the Abbottabad raid, Pakistan has been moving around its nuclear weapons even more making them alarmingly more vulnerable to theft by extremist elements, which is the US’s big new worry.