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Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 14:48 GMT
Musharraf takes charge of nuclear weapons

ghauri Pakistan's Ghauri missile can carry nuclear weapons


By Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad

Pakistan has announced the creation of a high-powered command and control authority to manage its nuclear and missile policy and associated weapons system.

This is the first time that an organised structure has been designed for the control, production and deployment of the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan since the country carried out a series of nuclear tests in May 1998.


nuke Power source: Pakistan's Nuclear Science and Technology Centre in Islamabad
The National Command Authority was approved by the country's National Security Council, which is headed by Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, and will be led by the head of government - currently General Musharraf himself.

The authority will also include senior military commanders and ministers for foreign affairs, interior and defence as well as other officials.

The overall authority for the country's nuclear weapons program could eventually be in the hands of a civilian ruler once General Musharraf restores democracy as he has promised to do.

Last October, when he overthrew elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, General Musharraf said democratic rule would return to Pakistan after he revived the economy and cleaned up the corrupt political system.

The real strength of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and its launching system is still not known.

After the nuclear tests in 1998, Pakistan also carried successful tests of its medium and long-range missiles.

Border battles

Since then, there has been a demand from the international community for Pakistan to have a proper command and control mechanism for its nuclear and missile system.

Pakistani officials said the decision to have a high-powered nuclear command and control authority was in line with its international commitment to pursue a policy of responsibility and restraint as a nuclear power.

While previously saying Pakistan will follow a policy of restraint, General Musharraf also warned that his country would consider using nuclear weapons if its security was threatened by India.

The two countries have fought three wars since British rule in the subcontinent ended in 1947. Last summer, they fought border battles in the disputed Kashmir region, sparking fears that the conflict could escalate into a full-scale war.

Relations between the two countries have never been good, and have worsened following the December hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane. India accused Pakistan of involvement, a charge Pakistan denies.

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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Pakistan nuclear test warning
12 Aug 99 |  South Asia
The balance of firepower
19 Aug 99 |  South Asia
Pakistan slams Indian nuclear policy
04 Jun 98 |  Analysis
The world's nuclear arsenal
12 Jun 98 |  Analysis
India and Pakistan: troubled relations

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