Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 08/2008

The Security of Pakistan's Nuclear Facilities

Ken Berry

February 2008

EastWest Institute


International concern over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities has significantly increased with recent turmoil there. But how justified is this concern? Pakistan carries out a full range of activities relating to nuclear weapons: from mining and milling raw materials; through the production of heavy water, tritium, highly enriched uranium and plutonium; to weaponization. It also has an advanced missile program. Yet little is actually known about the security of all these facilities, apart from the fact that they are guarded by a specially trained force of 10,000 separate from, but under the control of, the military.

It is safe to assume that Pakistan's disciplined and largely non-corrupt armed
forces expend considerable effort to safeguard their flagship weapon. The
problem is that the military is becoming dangerously overstretched in some
areas of the country, and Islamist extremists have managed to spread their
violent campaign to major urban areas. Increasing death rates and the
emergence of virtual no-go zones in some regions is also starting to
demoralize elements of the military, further increasing international concern.