Waiting for Nuclear Disaster?

Pakistan poses a serious risk to non-proliferation efforts. As its arsenal grows, so is the risk of nuclear terrorism.

For decades now, we’ve been reading about how Pakistan is supposedly at a crossroads. But what’s worrying today is that many of the roads traversing this nation are strewn with the potential for nuclear proliferation and the theft of the rapidly increasing amounts of nuclear materials by numerous terrorists outfits that are as anti their own establishment as they are anti-India or anti-United States. And some may well have an eye on nuclear terrorism.

It’s no secret that Pakistan has been steadily increasing its levels of nuclear warheads and its fissile material stockpile. During his time as Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf at one point openly boasted that the pace of nuclear weapons activity was 10 times what it had been. Since then, Pakistan has significantly added to its capacity to manufacture plutonium weapons rather than the more bulky and difficult to miniaturize HEU-based nuclear warheads. In terms of missile technology, Pakistan has always had the advantage of being able to make acquisitions from various sources, in some cases even through bartering with nuclear materials and technology.

None of this is a revelation, yet the world has silently watched—and sometimes even helped clear the way—as Pakistan has charged along this road. Of course, more policymakers today accept that this situation poses a danger to global security. Yet there appears to be little consensus, or even the willingness, to tackle the problem. Those who have the leverage seem unwilling to use it. Are we waiting for a disaster to prompt us to do something about this?