Pakistan’s Economic Meltdown – A Threat to Its Nuclear Safeguard?

Pakistan has always displayed immaturity in the conduct of national affairs and has come to be identified as a short-sighted opportunistic nation. With the country facing bankruptcy, there are concerns that it may transfer nuclear warheads to countries that are willing to pay upfront or to the highest bidder among wealthy terrorist organisations

By Ravi Srivastava

Opinion

Severe Stress

The latest figures by Pakistan’s Central Bank on January 27 have foreign reserves falling to the psychological mark of 3 billion USD. It has put Pakistan all at sea, looking to survive with a straw in the ocean. The panic-stricken Central Bank of Pakistan remained a mute spectator towards its inability to let the economy run, with forced clampdowns on routine imports. Local manufacturers are now gasping for basic supplies to let the factories run. End result is inventory shortage across the sectors, an import ban on essential purchases and its private sector laying off in hordes. Images of hundreds of container ships parked at Karachi port waiting to be offloaded is a harsh reminder of an economic disaster. The entire business community pleads for liquidity, which is the one thing Pakistan doesn’t have at the moment. On February 25, the government was forced to order the withholding of salaries. It’s a clear sign of bankruptcy when a country run out of resources to finance most basic requirements while fully realising it will only escalate the decline.

Pakistan can simply blame itself for the dirty mess it has created for its people. It never has depth on its fundamentals to indulge in the luxurious splurge of its elite, both political and military practices as their birthright. It’s a fact with very few parallels around the world where ministers and bureaucrats with critical responsibilities hold dual citizenship. While the military generals do so post-convenience of retirement. This reflects their questionable commitment towards their own country wherein at the first instance of trouble these people catch a flight to their new adopted home and the rest of the time is spent on preparing themselves for such an inevitable. It’s barely surprising that Pakistan has reached this state of civil anarchy where people are struggling to survive and make ends meet for the day. The entire class of Pakistani leadership now stands begging international credit institutions, friendly governments and IMF. However, the mayhem that Pakistan’s economy is going through has completely blown out the investors’ confidence. Whosoever can give money has refused Pakistan until it can strike a deal with IMF. Problem is, an IMF deal comes with lots of strings attached and evidently none are popular with governments or the local population. But for now, it’s a battle of survival; choices are limited and options are hard.

ads

Domestic Slugfest

The politics in Pakistan has far trivialised its laboured attempt towards democracy. This a very awkward reality and that’s because no matter who governs Pakistan, they all carry dictatorial ambitions. Imran Khan, an erstwhile PM, appears fully prepared to hold the country to ransom for political gains and unfortunately, he is not the only one. The entire political spectrum of Pakistan from Maryam Nawaz and Maulana Fazlur Rehman to Zardari is filled with shady ambitions. Historically Pakistan has only remained steadfast in continued decline and credit can be equally shared among its politicians, Military and bureaucrats. No matter whom you are talking to you can never be sure of intention and this has distinctively characterised the Pakistani state.

Pakistan is believed to have 160 nuclear warheads likely to be between 5–12 kilo ton capacity and some may have a higher yield of 40 kilo ton

A country is known by its leaders and for Pakistan, they have been a real embarrassment! Their Presidents, Generals, CMs and luminaries of the Supreme Court mostly carry a chequered personality. Asif Ali Zardari was infamously known as Mr 10 % and a gentleman was the President! Musharraf in his civilian avatar as President of Pakistan was slapped with treason charges and had to remain in exile till he breathed his last. A country blessed with such self-serving leadership and directionless polity only needs one thing for survival – a miracle!

The rest of the world views Pakistan as a country in self-denial. Pakistan feels it’s the adopted child of the world and all its problems should be addressed on super high priority. If its leaders have habitually siphoned off their national treasure, the world must step in and give them billions of dollars. If Pakistan has practiced terrorism as state policy, the world must recognise it as the front-runner in the global fight against terrorism, now that it’s facing the backlash. If Pakistani leaders have vowed to radical Islam for domestic dividends, the world must sympathise with them, when the same radicalisation has now become a social enigma. Simply put; the world must do something for everything which concerns Pakistan while at the same time, Pakistan is prepared to do nothing for anything!

big bang

 

Nuclear Disintegration?

It’s this state of Pakistan that has generated a critical concern across the major capitals. Pakistan has shown clear signs of decline and has been breaching one safeguard after another with alarming regularity. It’s the repeated practice that becomes nature and nature over a period is what becomes an identity. Pakistan as a state has displayed massive immaturity in the conduct of national affairs and has come to be identified as a Short-sighted Opportunistic Nation! They chose to go to war within months of independence. They chose dictatorship over nurturing national institutions and harbouring democracy. They chose the division of their nation over maturely handling the wishes and aspirations of their then-brethren Muslims in East Pakistan. They also chose to sell nuclear secrets to North Korea against a laid down international norm for the transfer of such sensitive technology. They chose to adopt radical Islam and terrorism as a state policy against the need for a peaceful existence. It’s the shocking national choices that have been made by Pakistan to date which reflect an unbelievable trajectory of failure.

huges

The path here onwards is as concerning as the disturbing backdrop. Pakistan as a declared nuclear power is believed to have a line of nuclear missiles mostly copied from China and North Korea and subsequently renamed from short-range Nasr or Hatf-9 with a range of 70 km to long-range Ababeel with a range of 2,200 km capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It has naval assets in Babur-3 with a likely range of 450 km and air assets in F-16A/B and Mirage III/V for the delivery platform of the nuclear warheads reaching a range of 2,100 km. But the critical assets of all these are the nuclear warheads.

Pakistan is said to have a line of nuclear missiles mostly copied from China and North Korea and subsequently renamed from short-range Nasr or Hatf-9 with a range of 70 km to long-range Ababeel with a range of 2,200 km capable of carrying nuclear warheads

Pakistan is believed to have 160 nuclear warheads likely to be between 5 – 12 kilo ton capacity and some may have a higher yield of 40 kilo ton. It has two major enrichment facilities at Kahuta near Rawalpindi and Khushab in Punjab for Uranium and weapons-grade Plutonium. Pakistan also has four civilian-purpose nuclear reactors at Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, Chasma Nuclear Power Plant and two US-gifted reactors in Islamabad managed as Pakistan Atomic Research Reactors all under IAEA safeguard including a nuclear fuel storage facility at Hawks Bay in Karachi. A major concern though remains the finished products stored at locations believed to be highly secured and out of reach. The reality is these secured locations are only as much secure as the custodian desires. Besides, the so-called secured sites are most likely within the knowledge ambit of countries that are interested in such information.

The famous leak of info from Pakistan’s Kahuta Uranium enrichment facility in the 70s forced Pakistan into a tizzy. Or the intel flagged by agencies keeping a close tab on Pakistan about its transfer of nuclear blueprints to North Korea and the arrival of knocked down missile consignments benefitting then Generals and one Mr AQ Khan millions of dollars! It’s a gone conclusion that in Pakistan it’s just a matter of offering the positions, information and assets that are all negotiable!

The Fallout

Problems in the priority are worries of Pakistan’s wilful transfer of tactical nuclear warheads to countries that are willing to pay upfront and are running behind the schedule of their stated ambitions or handing over a dirty bomb to the highest bidder among wealthy terrorist organisations, there are plenty of them. The psyche of Pakistan is reflected in a recent statement by Saad Rizvi, holding considerable following, on February 2 who said, “Pakistan should now negotiate with a nuclear bomb in its one hand.” Such curated statements not only receive hurray from the audience but are exactly the type of views that runs counter to global norms and sanity.

It is really hard to forget the prophetic words of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who once said, “We will eat grass but will have the nuclear bomb.” All of Pakistan must be feeling proud today, as that journey has got their country to the destiny they chose

As Pakistan’s crisis deepens and it looks for any and every alternative available, the world needs to work a step ahead of its complete unreliability. Some of the golden problems the international community always faces for Pakistan is whom to talk to & how to trust. Answers to these probably lie with their Generals & the Money; who are sophisticated enough to understand the exact wavelength of conversation, have no fear of public backlash and if history is to go by, they really get excited at the prospect of unaccounted wealth.

Since Plan B for a worthy endeavour is a must, it should be kept ready with all kinetic options laid bare on the negotiating table to leave no confusion among Pakistani decision-makers! As for India, it may not have a vehement objection to such an approach as long as the backhand supply of dollars is restricted to personal accounts and handles the global concern!

Meanwhile, it’s really hard to forget the prophetic words of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who once said – ‘we will eat grass but will have the nuclear Bomb!’ All of Pakistan must be feeling proud today, as that journey has got their country to the destiny they chose. Pakistan today can find itself in a perfect position to proudly offer grass or cattle food to its citizens for some time at least, hoping even that doesn’t go beyond their reach!

The writer has varied experience in security paradigm and is a keen follower of international geopolitics. He is also the author of popular blog site (geostrat.in) on geo-strategic affairs. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda