Pakistan dismisses speculations about compromise on nuclear program
By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Pakistan on Thursday dismissed "speculations" about any external pressure to compromise on its nuclear program amid a sputtering economy.
The rare explanation came directly from the prime minister's office, reflecting the gravity of speculations that Islamabad might "compromise" or "roll back" its nuclear program in exchange for financial assistance from the US, Europe, and international lending agencies to shore up its tottering economy.
An official statement said: "In the wake of all the recent statements, press releases, queries and various assertions regarding Pakistan's nuclear and missile program, being circulated on social and print media, wherein even a traditional routine visit of DG (director general) IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Rafael Mariano Grossi for peaceful nuclear program was portrayed in negative spotlight.
“It is emphasized that Pakistan's nuclear and missile program is a national asset, which is jealously guarded by the state."
"(The) complete program is totally secure, foolproof and under no stress or pressure, whatsoever,” the statement added, referring to several reports, including from opposition leaders, accusing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government of planning to "compromise" on the nuclear program.
"It continues to fully serve the purpose for which this capability was developed," it said.
The matter was also raised in the Senate on Thursday when Finance Minister Ishaq Dar clarified that there will be "no compromise" on the country's nuclear and missile programs.
“Let me assure you that (…) nobody is going to compromise anything on the nuclear or the missile program of Pakistan — no way, " Dar said in response to Raza Rabbani, a former Chairman Senate and member of the ruling alliance, who questioned the reasons for the delay in resuming the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program.
The clarifications came at a time when the South Asian nuclear country is grappling with an acute economic crisis compounded by simmering political turmoil.
Islamabad's foreign reserves have dwindled to nearly $4 billion only, following ongoing talks with the IMF for the resumption of a long-stalled $6 billion bailout package.
The speculations were fueled by the recent visit of the IAEA team, headed by its general secretary, who has expertise in de-nuclearization.
Pakistan is one of the seven recognized nuclear powers, with approximately 100-120 nuclear weapons capable of being delivered by aircraft and land-based missiles.
It carried out its first nuclear test in May 1998 in response to five nuclear tests conducted by archrival India.
According to the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, Pakistan will have the fifth largest arsenal by 2025, with around 200 nuclear warheads.