KEEP THEM AWAY FROM EXTREMELY SENSITIVE NUCLEAR MATTERS

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Dual nationality holders

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Zahid Malik

Monday, July 16, 2012 – As the dual nationality issue has taken the entire country into its grip with proponents and opponents making arguments in their favour, the Supreme Court rightly took notice of the situation and suspendedmembership of a number of Parliamentarians as under the Constitution, holder of dual nationality cannot hold any public office. After this development, the government came out with the Dual Nationality Bill to protect some of the senior members of the ruling party. The introduction of the bill in the Senate led to strong protests from the PML-N and an allied party of the Government ANP while legal luminaries including those affiliated with the PPP like Aitzaz Ahsan and Mian Raza Rabbani also expressed their reservations over it saying that they were not consulted. Even the Chief Election Commissioner-designate Fakhruddin G Ebrahim said he was personally opposed to the holding of any office by the dual national holders.

I am utterly surprised how it has escaped the attention of those who are opposing the Bill that some of our dual nationality representatives have been members of the Nuclear Command and Control Authority, the highest body which controls anddirects employment and deployment of strategic weapons.

Consequent to May 1998 Chaghai nuclear tests a well conceived management structure to formulate policies and centrally control all aspects of Pakistan’s nuclear programme was developed in 1999 and formally put in place in February 2000 i.e. within three months of General Pervez Musharraf assuming the power. President of Pakistan is Chairman of the high-powered NCCA while the Prime Minister is Vice Chairman, Foreign Minister its Deputy Chairman and Ministers for Defence, Interior and Finance along with Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff are its members. Ex-Interior Minister, Mr. Rehman Malik, has been attending meetings of the NCCA and one may mention that though the Finance Minister, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, claims to be a Pakistani passport holder, his wife is certainly a US citizen. As is known to every one and published in the media, Rehman Malik is head of a suspicious security and detective agency “Shaffaf Limited” in the UK which according to media reports in April 2011 is working as an intelligence agency as well. Association of such controversial persons makes nuclear command and control system highly vulnerable and it may be a cause of grave concern for the Armed Forces. The presence of any persons with divided loyalty poses a serious challenge for formulating foolproof checks in guarding against accidental or planned leaks of strategic weapons-related information.

I wish the civilian government itself should have taken care of this issue but what can we expect from them because I am privy to shocking remarks of one of the top members of the Command Authority that shows how issues of highest national priority are viewed casually, rather criminally. The said personality is stated to have said in one of the meetings of the Authority, “So far as I am concerned, you may lock your nuclear programme and throw its keys into the sea”.

As against our casual attitude towards the most hard-earned nuclear capability it may be mentioned, for instance, that the United States in 1980 had allocated 7% of its defence budget to strengthen and update the NCC system in view of its utmost importance. Even now the US and other atomic states including India are spending huge money on setting up complex/modern systems to maintain the secrecy of their assets and the authorities don’t let anybody with a slightest element of doubt or suspicion near to their nuclear programmes.

So far as the strategic Plans Division is concerned, it maintains an over-watch and regulates the movement of the scientific manpower and has put in place a system of reporting, approvals and monitoring of all movements of the scientific manpower, especially key personnel in possession of sensitive knowledge. It even retains retiring sensitive personnel within the system so as to preclude their access to undesirable attractions. But how can it keep an eye on the movements of dual nationality holders with divided loyalty? We must understand and always remain extra conscious that the Command and Control system is always of vital importance as it analyses the threats, plans responses and, above all, strives to achieve “deterrence”.

It is true that in a nuclear war the decision of deployment of nuclear weapons cannot be left to the military alone and political leadership has to be an integral part of the Nuclear Command and Control structure but the question arises how much the members having dual nationality or whose spouses are citizens of other states could be trusted. Here I may refer to a veteran Foreign Service officer when he was appointed as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China his wife was a staffer in State Department in Washington. How this appointment would have been perceived by the Chinese authorities, I leave it to the imagination of the worthy readers. There is nothing personal against the two members of the Command and Control Authority, mentioned above, but the issue has been raised as a matter of principle.

I wonder how our media which had been very vocal and a vanguard of national security has not taken up the issue of presence of such members in the most sensitive organization. One may differ or may be critical of incumbent or the future government but so far as the security of the State of Pakistan is concerned it should be the matter of concern for all including the media persons.

Anyhow, I personally feel extremely disturbed rather horrified to note that how the security and safety of the State and its nuclear secrets could be protected at a time when Pakistan is in the grip of many critical problems. I am firmly convinced that no foreign power can inflict any harm to the country of the Quaid but it faces threats from within.