Pak nukes face threat from jihadist groups: report

As Pakistan continues to build up its stockpile of nuclear weapons, the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said there is a broad appreciation of the danger of them falling into the hands of what the report called the 'Pakistani Neo-Taliban'.

"The greatest threat to Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure emanates from jihadists both inside Pakistan and South and Central Asia, generally," said the FAS report entitled 'Anatomizing Non-State Threats to Pakistan's Nuclear Infrastructure: The Pakistani Neo-Taliban' released yesterday.

"While there is a broad appreciation of this danger, there are few substantive studies that identify and explore specific groups motivated and potentially capable of acquiring and employing Pakistani nuclear weapons and/or fissile materials," the report said. According to The Wall Street Journal, the report is likely to make waves in the US and India, where public opinion towards Pakistan is increasingly hostile in the wake of the secret US raid on a Pakistani army garrison town which killed Osama bin Laden in his hideout.

Noting that there has long been concern over the security of Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure, the FAS report authored by Charles Blair, director of FAS's Terrorism Analysis Project, said the killing of bin Laden raises questions about Pakistan's sympathies to terrorist groups that target the US and its ongoing civil war against many of these same groups have only exacerbated these apprehensions.

Blair still believes that it is unlikely Pakistan will lose control of its nuclear materials or weapons, though this report makes it clear that the security situation in Pakistan is only getting worse, said Charles Ferguson, the FAS president.

According to the report, with the exception of tanks and airplanes, the Pakistani Neo-Taliban (PNT) has immediate access to virtually any conventional weapon a militant might seek. Military-grade weapons are reportedly available in major towns and cities in all of FATA and growing sections of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It also said that Pakistan has considered a strong Taliban presence in Afghanistan as a way to counter India's growing role in that country. "In short, a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is perceived by the ISI as one that brings stability to the region, is a useful counter against Pakistan's bete noire India in contested regions of Kashmir, and simultaneously offsets mounting Indian influence in Kabul," it said.

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