France encountered a list of civil order crisis-yellow vests protests, left-wing protests over pensions, and now the suburb crisis. In the suburb riots, hundreds have been arrested, widespread destruction in dozens of cities, buildings set on fire and police has been attacked. In this huge political instability, nobody has raised concern over their nukes, strange! The United Kingdom has been at the crossroads of political instability since Brexit; according to the Forbes article, “The U.K. economy is broken”; a huge unrest occurred in Leicester occurred last year, given all the current geopolitical settings and the economic challenges, not a single beat of concern regarding ‘nukes’ has ever been heard. A nuclear capable missile is fired into a nuclear state, the world has seen numerous instances of Uranium theft in India, which indicates weak safety and security protocols and weak Command and Control structure in India to handle such precarious technology, the political elite always using the aggressive war-prone card against Pakistan in front of public for their political gains like ‘Qatal ki Raat’, without realizing the repercussions, which shows the ill-mindset of India’s ruling power, but no reverberations with regard to their nuclear safety has ever been heard. But when, there’s a slight political instability in Pakistan, some paid critiques start raising voice on nuclear safety and security. Which is absurd!
States possessing nuclear weapons prioritize the safety, security, and effective control of their arsenals. Pakistan, as a nuclear-armed state, is no exception. Pakistan established NCA as a strategic imperative, not only to establish a harmonized command and control mechanism, operational policy, and development strategy, but also to provide credibility to strategic deterrence.
Pakistan has the most efficient and robust command and control structure to ensure the security and effective use of its nuclear assets. The National Command Authority was established in 2000, as the decision making body of nuclear command and control. General Pervez Musharraf viewed the NCA as “…the apex body responsible for all policy matters including the development and employment of our strategic assets.” It is responsible for formulating policies, deploying the strategic forces, coordinating the activities of all strategic organizations, negotiating arms control/disarmament, overseeing implementation of export controls, and safeguarding nuclear assets and sites.
The NCA has two committees: the Employment Control Committee (ECC) and the Development Control Committee (DCC). The ECC is responsible for directing policy-making during peace time and deployment of strategic forces during war time; The DCC is responsible for exercising technical, financial, and administrative control over the strategic organizations. The NCA is headed by the premier of the state, i-e the prime minister. The core members include the Foreign, Defence, Interior, and Finance ministers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Director General of the Strategic Plans Division, and the Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Pakistan’s nuclear command and control system is considered to be relatively sophisticated and balanced. It has civilian and military involvement and checks and balances between the participating institutions.
One critical aspect of Pakistan’s command and control structure is the secure and centralized command authority. The ultimate decision-making power rests with the civilian leadership, particularly the Prime Minister, who oversees the use of nuclear weapons. This ensures a civilian-controlled mechanism that takes into account political and strategic considerations while maintaining the highest level of responsibility.
Pakistan, as repeatedly reiterated, considers all of its nuclear capable weapons as strategic weapons, and they lie directly under the NCA. Pakistan has repeatedly assured that “nuclear use authority will remain under centralized control under all circumstances.” Pakistan has no intention of delegating the authority of Tactical Nuclear Weapons to the officers in the field.
Pakistan maintains a posture of ‘full spectrum deterrence’, which is in line with its policy of ‘Credible Minimum Deterrence’. This policy emphasizes Pakistan’s resolve to deter any form of aggression through the possession of a credible and robust nuclear deterrent. It encompasses various elements, including clear command authority, secure and reliable communication networks, and personnel reliability programs.
Pakistan’s commitment to nuclear security extends beyond its borders. It actively participates in international initiatives and forums related to nuclear safety, non-proliferation, and counterterrorism. Through engagement with the international community, Pakistan emphasizes its responsible approach to nuclear weapons and its dedication to preventing their proliferation and safeguarding against unauthorized access.
Pakistan’s commitment to ensuring a robust nuclear command and control structure is evident in its efforts to ensure security and deterrence. Pakistan’s multi-layered approach, incorporating secure command authority, robust physical security, personnel reliability programs, and effective communication networks, reflects its commitment to maintaining the safety and security of its nuclear assets. The precise details of the structure and nuclear doctrine are intentionally kept in secrecy, as is the case with most nuclear-armed states, for obvious security reasons and enhancing the deterrence value. Naeem Salik argues, the official doctrine of Pakistan has not been made public since “this ambiguity adds to the value of deterrence.”
In conclusion, Pakistan’s nuclear command and control structure stands as a testament to its commitment to ensuring security and deterrence. By adhering to a policy of Full Spectrum Deterrence under the auspices of Credible Minimum Deterrence and employing comprehensive measures to safeguard its nuclear assets, Pakistan underscores its responsible approach to nuclear weapons. Ongoing engagement with the international community further demonstrates Pakistan’s dedication to nuclear security and non-proliferation efforts. Through these combined efforts, Pakistan aims to maintain regional stability while deterring potential threats to its security.
Amber Afeen Abid
Research Officer, SVI