By S. M. Hali

As the plot thickens, Pakistan finds itself in the eye of the storm being brewed by its detractors. Unfortunately, most of the flak talk originates from its allies. The US has been targeting its most non-NATO ally Pakistan with admonition and threats. The latest is a pack of lies from the “Atlantic” magazine, which in a 10,000 words’ article ‘The ally from hell’ by Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder accuses Pakistan of deceit, lying and double dealing. It first makes a case against Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority’s secretariat Strategic Plans Division (SPD) of handling the nuclear assets in a most irresponsible manner i.e. transporting them in public vehicles, without any escorts and then storing them in tell tale locations. The authors commence their tirade through an imaginary conversation between Army Chief General Kayani and SPD’s DG Lieutenant General (R) Kidwai after the May 02 Abbotabad operation Geronimo, where the Army Chief purportedly inquired of the safety of Pakistan’s nukes. When asked, Gen Kidwai denied the report vehemently. The authors claim six months of research but neither the SPD commander nor any mid ranking officer were either contacted by the authors. The authors are definitely armchair pundits, who have concocted a cock and bull story to slander Pakistan.

They claim that the SPD is more concerned with hiding its nukes from the US than the terrorists. If the US ostensibly knew about the location of Pakistan’s nukes or their being transported via public vehicles, then why didn’t it seize a few or the terrorists steal some. The fact is that the US does not have any clue of the number of the warheads Pakistan possesses or their location. The authors themselves admit through a statement by General James Jones, that the US had no clue of the location of Pakistan’s nukes. Eric Auner, who comes to the support of the article, also admits that “no country, including the United States, is fully transparent in this regard. Nuclear weapons locations, safety procedures, and targeting plans will always be closely guarded secrets.”

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The whole article is a concoction of falsehoods and self-contradiction. The authors claim that the attacks on buses conveying PAF personnel near Sargodha or school children at Kamra, the gate of POF Wah or PNS Mehran may have been attacks on Pakistan’s nukes by terrorists. The authors present a fictitious map of the supposed location indicating the safe-houses where the nukes are stored thus fooling only themselves. The assailants target armed forces of Pakistan to get even for the success they have achieved in suppressing the terrorists. The authors obviously show a lack of rudimentary nuclear security knowledge, what to speak of nuclear devices. Do they expect uncouth terrorists to make away with a nuclear device like a golf ball under their armpits and later lob them like hand grenades. The use of nuclear weapons necessitates sophisticated technical knowhow and ragtag militia is not equipped to deliver. The authors admit that the SPD has de-mated the warheads from the weapons, and praise the SPD’s professionalism and in the next breath they denigrate them with aspersions. The SPD has been endeavoring to augment its security system and the Abbottabad incident must have made them revisit the system and improve procedures. Only last week highly trained 700 additional security experts have been inducted in SPD.

Now let us examine a BBC documentary ‘Secret Pakistan’ depicting another pack of lies. It implies that the ISI is training and arming terrorists and suicide bombers to attack US troops in Afghanistan. It presents interviews of hitherto unknown Taliban leaders in the custody of US and Afghan security agencies as evidence. How could the BBC ensure the veracity of its story when the primary facilitator for it was the Afghan National Directorate of Security? Pakistan has, in its custody, many Taliban commanders who have been trained in camps in Afghanistan. Would the BBC interview them and present that documentary as authentic proof of what several intelligence agencies in Afghanistan are doing to hurt Pakistan without corroborative reporting? Additionally, what the BBC did is akin to deception, since it resorted to running an old sound-bite of Major General Athar Abbas, DG ISPR, rather than obtain his fresh comments. Additionally, the producers should have used the disclaimer that given the fog of war in the region with several state and non-state actors playing multiple games, they cannot underscore the possibility of personal biases and agendas. These examples amply corroborate that “with friends like these, who needs enemies?