The question that hangs over everything that is happening across the Middle East and Central Asia is this: Is Pakistan’s arsenal of nuclear weapons secure? If it is, everyone breathes easier and reassures each other that Pakistan will somehow “muddle through” its unravelling.
If Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is not secure, then everyone stares at the ceiling all night, wondering when one or more of those weapons falls into the wrong hands.
The Taliban attack on the Mehran naval air base in Karachi on 22 May was one of those events that gave policy-makers around the world an acute case of 4am ceiling-staring. It was important and significant in the same way that the attacks on Mumbai were important and significant. Both events spoke to a much larger problem.
Specifically, that problem is that neither Mehran not Mumbai could have happened without the active assistance of officers of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services. Kapil Komireddi, writing at Foreign Policy, makes the point succinctly:
It is inconceivable that this attack could have materialised without insider support. It was always known that a substantial number of Pakistan’s armed forces — 30 per cent, by some estimates — sympathized with the objectives of the forces they were fighting. The Pakistan Army will present Sunday’s clash as proof of its valor in an attempt to assuage Pakistanis outraged by its incompetence. But the world must now acknowledge the fact that Pakistan’s military is so deeply riven, its loyalties so thoroughly fractured, that it is incapable not only of defending Pakistan but is also dangerously unfit to be the custodian of its nuclear arsenal. It is time for Washington, Pakistan’s principal paymaster in the West, to pursue the option of comprehensively denuclearizing Pakistan.
This is now the “developed” world’s single most pressing assignment: denuclearizing Pakistan. If Mehran happens at a nuclear facility, all bets are off.
You can read the rest of Mr. Komireddi’s report by clicking here.
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