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Pakistan: Death In Waiting

August 13, 2012

An Article by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Pakistan: Death In Waiting

In a republic obsessed with nuclear arsenal, citizenry has nothing much to celebrate the country’s 65th anniversary of independence.

Nafees Mohammad

Pakistan is said to have been aggressively pursuing its nuclear weapon program and poised to leave behind countries like France and Britain within a decade if no change in policy takes place. Wow! A country facing stark reality of constant shortage of energy problem and whose people, living in all big cities are running wild and violent against the darkness that the power outages have filled their lives with, can at least feel proud of having a power that it has been able to amass despite all the odds that go against it. The data available on Wikipedia[1] and in the Newsweek (15 May 2011 issue)[2] shows that Pakistan currently has 100-110 total nuclear warheads in its possession and if we look at the world level data, Pakistan stands fifth among the nuclear power countries of the world and is suspected of already having attained a little edge over India.

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This is not the only edge that Pakistan has achieved so far in amassing the deterrents that are considered as a safeguard for the security of the country. The number of Ballistic Missiles in possession of Pakistan is also slightly less than what India has (8 versus 10 respectively)[3].

Table1: Source:

Click for big version.

Although the authenticity of the information available on these nuclear warheads is not officially verifiable as they are kept very secret, the occasional leaks, intentional and unintentional, from different sources help make these estimates somewhat close to reality. To everybody's surprise, the largest stockpile of these nuclear warheads is still with Russia that was once the major part of a world super power called USSR. Despite having such an edge over its rivals, USSR couldn't manage to retain its shape, form, and status it once enjoyed and even disappeared from the map of the world in the early part of 90s. Does it ring any bell for anyone within the corridor of power in the countries that are constantly running into this mad race? No way! Back in 1948, Sir Winston S. Churchill wrote a book on the Second World War and in it he discussed the war preparations of Europe after the end of the First World War and what he said then still retains its relevance and importance:
"Mankind has never been in this position before. Without having improved appreciably in virtue or enjoying wiser guidance, it has got into its hands for the first time the tools by which it can unfailingly accomplish its own extermination. That is the point in human destinies to which all the glories and toils of men have at last led them. They would do well to pause and ponder upon their new responsibilities. Death stands at attention, obedient, expectant, ready to serve, ready to shear away the peoples en masse; ready, if called on, to pulverize, without hope of repair, what is left of civilization. He awaits only the word of command. He awaits it from a frail bewildered being, long his victim, now – for one occasion only – his master."[4]

Nuclear warheads have been a cause of concern for all humanists and even for the war lords as well. After the World War II that left millions of people dead and trillions of dollars' worth of property destroyed, the arm race of self destruction couldn't be stopped. Who can forget the cold war period when USA and USSR were engaged in carrying out an arm race that couldn't stop until one of them collapsed and faced its total demise? The leftover was a huge pile of nuclear weapons worth trillions of dollar wondering their fate in the new global scenario. Russia and USA began implementing their arms reduction treaty START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and destroyed about 80% of their war heads and still they have so many in their stockpiles. Think of the money that we, as human being, spent in manufacturing and then destroying those destructive devices. It isn't a story from a distant past history. It only happened yesterday and a NEW START treaty was signed recently by the US President Obama and Russian President Medvedev that became effective from 26 January 2011.

Could this recent example of futility of nuclear war heads bring any realization among other countries like Pakistan and India? Human history is devoid of any example where past experiences could have guided the future generation to change its course of action though it is only the humans that keep recording their experiences for nothing but this purpose alone. Among all other nuclear powers, India and Pakistan are the only two countries whose GDPs are the lowest and if we look at their per capita incomes (PPP) it is not any better either. Not only is the economy of Pakistan lowest among all other nuclear power countries, it's no better among the leading Muslim countries either (See the Table 1 below). Yet, it is the only Muslim country that can boast of having a leadership in a field where all other Muslim countries are lagging behind.

Table 1: Source: World factsbook

CountryGDP (2011)Per Capita (PPP)GDP Growth
Pakistan$210.6 billion (2011 est.)$2,800 (2011 est.)2.4% (2011 est.)
India$1.676 trillion (2011 est.)$3,700 (2011 est.)7.2% (2011 est.)
Saudi Arabia$577.6 billion (2011 est.)$24,500 (2011 est.)6.8% (2011 est.)
U.A.E.$360.1 billion (2011 est.)$48,800 (2011 est.)4.9% (2011 est.)
Iran$482.4 billion (2011 est.)$13,200 (2011 est.)2% (2011 est.)
Indonesia$845.7 billion (2011 est.)$4,700 (2011 est.)6.5% (2011 est.)
China$7.298 trillion$8,500 (2011 est.)9.2% (2011 est.)
USA$15.09 trillion (2011 est.)$49,000 (2011 est.)1.7% (2011 est.)
UK$2.418 trillion (2011 est.)$36,600 (2011 est.)0.7% (2011 est.)
Israel$242.9 billion (2011 est.)$31,400 (2011 est.)4.7% (2011 est.)
France$2.776 trillion (2011 est.)$35,600 (2011 est.)1.7% (2011 est.)
Russia$1.85 trillion (2011 est.)$17,000 (2011 est.)4.3% (2011 est.)

For Pakistan it is a great achievement and a source of self pride that is no different from what the USSR must have felt when it had produced its first nuclear device in 1949. It was the beginning of the arms race between the USSR and USA. Are Pakistan and India following the same path that was trodden by the two super powers of yester years? I hope not but the symptoms are indicative of a similar trend. India says its preparations are not only to counter any threat from Pakistan but rather from its bigger neighbor - China. For Pakistan, India is the only threat in the region yet it is suspected of continuing with its production line and within next decade it is going to have another 100 nuclear war heads in its backyard and becoming a proud winner of this arms race with India and even leave UK behind. How many more nuclear war heads does Pakistan need to feel secure from any threat? The temptation seems to be unending. To this date, only two atom bombs have been dropped in Japan and the resultant deaths and destructions of these bombs were so catastrophic and horrifying that a war hero like Churchill had to admit that in the event of the next World War none may alive to tell the tale of the catastrophe. Instead of continuing with making death machines indefinitely, we better now switch over to creating life saving environment because the love for death machines will bring nothing but death to all.

Technical Assistance

Besides supplying whole systems, many corporations and nations have offered technical assistance in the last 10 years to some emerging missile powers. German firms reportedly assisted the missile programs of Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, India, Iraq, and Libya. The Italians have offered assistance to Argentina, Egypt, and India. The French have participated in missile programs in Iraq and Pakistan. Israel has been accused by international arms regulators of participating in technology programs that lend a country the capability to build or modify a ballistic missile. The South Africans reportedly have received significant aid from the Israelis.

Most European countries can lend technical assistance to emerging missiles powers. The French have a long history of developing missiles, not only to support the Ariane space launch capability but to launch the force de frappe nuclear arsenal. The Italians have participated in the European Union space program that helped design the Hermes missile. While the British relied on American missile programs in the 1960s to supply their TBM needs, a technical exchange program between Britain and the United States trained and educated a sizable pool of missile talent from the British Isles.
The price of one ICBM: 386,250 dinners at Chez Panisse!
June 30, 2009
According to John Clay, a missile expert at Northrup-Grumman, "The last ICBM cost $100 billion, in current dollars." And according to an official U.S. Navy website, the unit cost for one Lockheed Trident is 30.9 million dollars. Guess I'm going to have to save up.

According to new commercial-satellite imagery obtained exclusively by NEWSWEEK, Pakistan is aggressively accelerating construction at the Khushab nuclear site, about 140 miles south of Islamabad. The images, analysts say, prove Pakistan will soon have a fourth operational reactor, greatly expanding plutonium production for its nuclear-weapons program.
Unlike Iran, which has yet to produce highly enriched uranium, or North Korea, which has produced plutonium but still lacks any real weapons capability, Pakistan is significantly ramping up its nuclear-weapons program. Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration, puts it bluntly: "You're talking about Pakistan even potentially passing France at some point. That's extraordinary."

"it's the fastest-growing program in the world."
What we're facing, she says, is "a disaster waiting to happen."
"Pakistan knows it can outstare" the West, says Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy. "It's confident the West knows that Pakistan's collapse is too big a price to pay, so the bailout is there in perpetuity. It's the one thing we've been successful at."

U.S. and USSR/Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles, 1945–2006

Mr. Nafees Mohammad Freelance Journalist and Senior Research Fellow, Center for Research and Regional Security, Islamabad (based in Karachi), he can be reached at

[4] Winston S. Churchil “The Second World War, Book I”, Cassell & Co., Ltd., London, 1948, P.37

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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