Is the real world threat a nuclear-armed Pakistan?
Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear arms buildup in the world, even as its economy needs life support in the form of handouts from international donors.
Pakistanis claim that being outmatched by the conventionally stronger military of its arch-rival India, they need a large stock pile of nukes to defend against an Indian attack. However, closer scrutiny reveals a different story. Pakistan has always been the aggressor in the past military conflicts with India. Besides, terrorists are routinely sent from Pakistan to India to conduct mayhem and murder under the cover of religion. Moreover, it is now estimated that Pakistan has far more nukes than India, along with superior delivery systems.
Pakistan’s new generation nuclear weapons (nukes) are plutonium based—extracted from new nuclear reactors built for the very purpose. These weapons are compact and more powerful. Plutonium is also the basis for the hundred-times more powerful thermonuclear bomb. With this plutonium capability, Pakistan is well on its way to becoming a nuke factory.
The real question left unanswered is why Pakistan is making more nukes than it needs, and for what purpose. An insidious picture emerges from analyzing Pakistan’s theological focus and the likely funding source(s) behind its nuclear armament program.
In a recent Frontpage Magazine piece titled “Is Wilders Wrong About Islam?” I explained how jihad (holy war) waged on unbelievers forms the dominant thrust of the Koran and Muhammad’s biography. This theological basis continues to inspire modern constructs of jihad. Pakistan’s broad-based commitment to jihad is reflected in the contents of its school syllabus. The motto of the Pakistani army is “faith, piety and jihad in the path of Allah.” In the 1980s Brigadier S.K. Malik of the Pakistani army produced an authoritative military manual on jihad called The Quranic Concept of War. It is a required reading of Pakistan’s military officers.
Malik writes: “the Holy Prophet's operations ...are an integral and inseparable part of the divine message revealed to us in the Holy Quran... The war he planned and carried out was total to the infinite degree. It was waged on all fronts: internal and external, political and diplomatic, spiritual and psychological, economic and military… The Quranic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the heart of the enemy, known or hidden... Terror struck into the hearts of the enemy is not only a means; it is the end in itself.”
The above theological thrust has not only ensured military domination of the civilian sphere, but also drove the military to commandeer all instruments and disproportionate share of the resources of the state in order to impose a violent jihad on unbelievers. In other words, Pakistan has become a modern Third Reich, armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery systems.
Theological motivations enshrine Pakistan as an aggressive jihadist state, no matter the extent of financial and other incentives given to it to stop its jihad. Indeed, it appears that the Western aid and arms given to Pakistan since 2001 in good faith, have instead, mostly gone to further its jihadist agenda.
Leading Project Jihad is the notorious intelligence agency of Pakistan, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), staffed by serving officers of Pakistan’s military on a rotational basis. Almost every major Sunni Islamic terrorist entity—Al Qaeda, the Taliban or Lashkar-e-Taiba—owe their existence and operational capabilities to the support received from the ISI. When the Taliban, a brainchild of the ISI, overran Kabul fifteen years ago the administrative support to run the country -- arms, fuel and financing -- flowed from Pakistan.
There was no way al-Qaeda leadership could have taken root in the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan without Pakistan’s tacit approval. This was despite the open knowledge that well before the 9/11 attacks the United States had implicated Bin Laden and al-Qaeda in terrorist attacks on its interests. Pakistan also allowed local charities to funnel funds to Bin Laden’s group in Afghanistan. Moreover, the al-Qaeda rank and file who used the Pakistani port city of Karachi as a transit point to enter landlocked Afghanistan could have been stopped had the Pakistanis wanted to. Yet, Pakistan’s intent toward the United States has been misconstrued. Even the usually perceptive Charles Krauthammer who sees an ominous sign in a plutonium-producing Pakistan doesn’t get it when he writes that “Pakistan is a relatively friendly power.”
The main nation widely thought to be behind the bankrolling of Pakistan’s nuclear buildup is Saudi Arabia, from where most hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks originated. Thanks to this symbiotic relationship, Saudi Arabia may already have nukes. As well, the fellow Sunni sheikdoms of the Middle East feel threatened of a nuclear Shiite Iran may get access to the cash-starved and ideologically inclined Pakistan’s plutonium-based nukes. All of this points to a higher risk of nuclear terrorism involving the nukes.
Starting in the 1990s, it took the jihadist enterprise in Pakistan about ten years to build the terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan. This proxy was leveraged to attack the United States on September 11, 2001. Not only did Pakistan get away with it, but has since found itself benefiting from Western largesse. So encouraged, the Pakistani jihadist-elite may be convinced of once again escaping retribution from both reckless and wanton proliferation of its nukes and their use. And may even expect to reap in the benefits, as part of “assisting” in the aftermath.
The mindset of influential Pakistanis with nuclear knowhow is truly troubling. Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, an architect of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, was not only speaking for himself when he declared that Pakistan’s nuclear bombs are “the property of a whole ummah [worldwide Muslim community],” so that some Muslim nations or groups could use them on infidels to bring about “the end of days” and lead the way for Islam to be the supreme religious force in the world.
The plutonium-producing new reactors in the Sunni-majority Pakistan could be the beginning of a dangerous miles stone: the ushering in the new era of Sunni nuclear terrorism. Iran, whose leaders are notable for making apocalyptic threats directed at Israel too causes grave concern, especially when considering that it is expected to become nuclear weapon capable anytime now. Not unlike Pakistan, Iran too backs jihadist proxies, including Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
Trend lines on nuclear know-how of jihadist sponsors and that of global jihad suggest that the following worst case scenario can no longer be ignored: Nuclear strikes on the continental United States within the next decade.
As part of risk mitigation, policies must be designed to preempt this calamity. Any such effort must start with the acknowledgment that jihadist enterprises are ruling Pakistan and Iran. This calls for dismantling the nuclear infrastructure in these nations—undoubtedly a high risk and high cost strategic maneuver. But such a risk or even costs should likely dwarf the consequences of allowing the nuclear armament buildup in Pakistan and Iran to proceed unhindered.
Seen in the above context, the recent Nuclear Security Summit organized by the Obama administration is an exercise in futility because of its failure of imagination on Pakistan and Iran. To protect its cities from nuclear strikes, the United States faces the prospect of a mobilization not yet seen since the Second World War.
Moorthy Muthuswamy is a U.S.-based nuclear physicist and author of the recent book Defeating Political Islam: The New Cold War.