'Continued instability in Pak poses threat to its N-weapons'

'Continued instability in Pak poses threat to its N-weapons'

"While US and Pakistani officials continue to express confidence in controls over Pakistan's nuclear weapons, continued instability in the country could impact these safeguards," the bipartisan and independent Congressional Research Service has told US lawmakers in its latest report.

Instability in Pakistan has called the extent and durability of these reforms into question, the CRS said. It said some observers fear radical takeover of a government that possesses a nuclear bomb, or proliferation by radical sympathisers within Pakistan's nuclear complex in case of a breakdown of controls.

Pakistan's nuclear arsenal consists of approximately 60 nuclear warheads, although it could be larger, said the 24-page report. Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities and deploying additional delivery vehicles. These steps will enable Pakistan to undertake both quantitative and qualitative improvements to its nuclear arsenal.

Although separate storage may provide a layer of protection against accidental launch or prevent theft of an assembled weapon, it may be easier for unauthorised people to remove a weapon's fissile material core if it is not assembled, the CRS said.

Dispersal of the assets may also create more potential access points for acquisition and may increase the risk of diversion, it noted.