The biggest fear that the US has as of now is not whether India and Pakistan will go to war; the fear is that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons might fall in the hands of jihadists. The concern is so credible that even Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had expressed fears over such a possibility. She had said that if that happened it would be “a threatening scenario”.
Clinton’s comments were made during a close-door fundraiser in Virginia in February this year, long before the presidential race heated up and a month after the Pathankot terror attack.
She is heard making the comments in an audio clip accessed by top media houses in the US following a hacking.
“Pakistan is running full speed to develop tactical nukes in their continuing hostility with India,” the former secretary of state is heard saying, as reported by the US media.
“But we live in fear that they’re going to have a coup, that jihadists are going to take over the government, they’re going to get access to nuclear weapons, and you’ll have suicide nuclear bombers. So, this could not be a more threatening scenario,” she says. That her fears are not unfounded can be gauged from Pakistan’s current stand against India. Pakistani defence minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif threatened to nuke India if New Delhi retaliated to the Uri terrorist attacks. While the US is confident of India’s restraint, it has a deep mistrust of Pakistani establishment.
Pakistani army officers on Shaheen missile. AFP
US President Barack Obama had said this in 2010: “The single biggest threat to US security, both short term, medium term, and long term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Following the raid at Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad by US Navy Seals, a rattled Pakistan increased its pace of shifting allegiance from Washington to Beijing. In doing so it started hiding its nuclear arsenal from Washington’s eyes. That complicated matters for US, which wanted to keep an eye on the nukes from falling in the hands of the Taliban. Islamabad continues to reassure Washington that the nukes are safe and well-guarded. The truth is that there have been many attempts by jihadists, who have bases across the length and breadth of the country, to capture nuclear facilities.
Pakistan is known as the State that sold nuclear secrets to North Korea and Iran.
Very recently, reports emerged that the Islamic State was looking to get a nuke from Pakistan. Though the reports were doubted, the fact is that western powers fear of a possibility of someone from the Pakistani government selling off nuclear weapons. A leaked Wikileaks cable had revealed that in 2010 US ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, cabled to Washington: “Our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in government of Pakistan facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon.” She curtly told US that even if Washington continues giving funds to Pakistan to fight terrorism, the Pakistani military will continue to support the terrorists Islamists (against India) and Taliban (against Afghanistan).