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An economic planner of Zardari regime calls for dismantling of Pakistan's nuclear program

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With the US-client Zardari regime at loggerheads with the powerful army on the Memogate Scandal, The News, a leading English newspaper of Pakistan, reported Monday that the government economic planners are promoting an economic growth strategy based on major cuts in the country's nuclear budget or completely giving up the nuclear program.

The army and the government are in clash over claims by an American businessman of Pakistani origin, Mansoor Ijaz, that Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, Hussain Haqqani (now sacked), had in May asked him to write a memo seeking White House support against a brewing military coup. Ijaz also said he believed Haqqani had acted at the behest of president Zardari. The Memogate scandal is currently under investigation by Pakistan's parliament and Supreme Court.

The memo among things offered the US " to develop an acceptable framework of discipline for the nuclear program" and "bring Pakistan's nuclear assets under a more verifiable, transparent regime."

The News reported that the deputy chairman Planning Commission Dr Nadeem-ul-Haq was scheduled to deliver a lecture Monday at the National Defense University with the aim of convincing his audience of Pakistan Army officers that the only way to take the country ahead and to make economic progress was to make major cuts in the country's nuclear program and subsequently follow the South African Model. (South Africa abandoned its nuclear program voluntarily in 1990s.)

However, Dr Haq's lecture was cancelled at the last moment for unspecified reasons.

The News said that under instructions of the present government, Dr Haq was to come out in public on the last point of the memo which offered to US "an acceptable framework of discipline for the nuclear program."   Dr Haq was to tell the under-training senior and junior army officers to start consider giving up the nuclear program in order to take the nation ahead for a sustainable economic growth and development.

The News also carried another story Monday about the nuclear program from its investigative journalist Ansar Abbasi. Under the headline, "Nuclear budget cut by PPP in four years," the paper said Pakistan 's most precious nuclear program has faced severe financial cuts during the last four years of the present regime thus badly hampering many of its core classified projects and creating a situation that is described by some as a "technical roll back."

The News quoted an informed source, who has been one of the top nuclear managers of Pakistan's nuclear program, as saying: "The development budget of the nuclear program has never been cut in the fashion as we saw during these four years."

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With great pain, the source said, "Pakistan's nuclear program has been the top priority of every successive government but it is no more treated in a similar manner by the present regime." Such is the scarcity of funding, he explained, that the lion's share of the available money is spent on security of the nukes and for non-development expenditure including salaries etc.

Consequently, most of the hard core nuclear development program did not get the required money so it has been stopped. The source said that such a situation could be described as "technical roll back" of the nuclear program.

In 2009, The News, had reported an almost 35 per cent cut in the classified side of the strategic organizations' development budget. Only in the case of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) in that year more than 30 projects were affected by the budgetary cut.

It was also reported in 2009 that the government had changed the financing system for the nuclear program to its disadvantage. The new system called Assignment Account System (AAS) was introduced despite the opposition of the PAEC and the Strategic Planning Division at that time.The new system, it was argued, would not only expose the classified purchases of the strategic organization but would also not allow them to keep their allocated money in their respective bank accounts.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates Pakistan's nuclear arsenal at some 100 warheads.

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The News reports came at a time when opposition leaders are saying that Pakistan's nuclear assets are not safe under President Zardari who offered in 2009 to abandon Pakistan's "first strike" nuclear weapons posture against India, in return for a comprehensive peace agreement.

"Our nuclear weapons are in safe hands, but they are under threat from the policymakers," former Foreign Minister Shah Qureshi told to about 200,000 people at an opposition rally in Karachi on Sunday. In the same rally, another former minister, Asif Ahmad, also challenged the president's national security credentials.

 

Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 

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