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Pakistan’s Nuclear Command and Control

HRK

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- Posting excerpt from the Report of South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) London, published in 2008.
- Purpose of this thread is to aware the members of the forum with the basics of Pakistan's Nuclear Command Structure.
- Complete report could be downloaded from the following link:
http://www.sassu.org.uk/html/Pakistan Nuclear Command and Control Final.pdf

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Overview of Pakistan's nuclear capability

The details of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability and doctrine remain uncertain because of Pakistan’s need to maintain strategic ambiguity. But, Pakistan is estimated to have between 50 and 60 nuclear weapons (comment: as estimated in 2008) and the capability to deliver them either by aircraft (modified F-16s and Mirages) or surface-to-surface missiles. Pakistan has not formally announced any nuclear doctrine. However, statements by senior Pakistani military and government officials suggest that the objective of its nuclear doctrine is to deter all forms of external aggression that could endanger Pakistan’s national security or strategic forces. It is not clear what would constitute a severe enough danger to Pakistan’s national security to trigger the use of nuclear weapons, but a variety of events have been suggested. This threshold could be a loss of a significant part of Pakistani territory, a destruction of a large part of Pakistan’s military, economic strangulation, or social destabilization.

Pakistan believes that it can achieve deterrence against aggression through a combination of conventional and strategic forces.Pakistan has not agreed to a no-first-use but will not use nuclear weapon against non-nuclear weapon states.

Evolution of Pakistan's nuclear command and control system

Since 1975 Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program has been controlled by the National Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) and the National Nuclear Command Committee (NNCC).

Since 1998 Pakistan’s nuclear command and control system has been transformed in four stages with the end result being a mature system.
  • During the first stage (1998–1999) Pakistan started to consider a more institutionalized command and control system.
  • During the second stage (2000–2001) Pakistan introduced its first reforms. On 7 February 2000, Pakistan announced a formal chain of command over nuclear weapons. This system was put into operation during 2001.
  • During the third stage (2001–2003) Pakistan further strengthened oversight over its nuclear weapons. This was a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which focused international attention on Pakistan and put pressure on Pakistan to secure its nuclear weapons.
  • The final phase (2003–present) has been marked by the investigation into the A. Q. Khan nuclear network and related improvements in the command and control system, and export controls.Finally, in December 2007 President Pervez Musharraf transformed the ordinance establishing the system into a law.
Overview of Pakistan's nuclear command and control system

The system is based on a three-tier structure:
  1. The National Command Authority (NCA),
  2. The Strategic Plans Division (SPD),
  3. The Three Services’ Strategic Forces Command.
The composition and role of each of these institutions is outlined in the following sections.
 
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HRK

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National Command Authority (NCA)

The government created the NCA in 2000 as the highest decision-making body in the nuclear command and control system. It has ten members including
  • The President (chairman),
  • The Prime minister (vice-chairman)
  • And The Chief of Army Staff.
It is responsible for formulating policies, deploying the strategic forces, coordinating the activities of all strategic organizations, negotiating arms control / disarmament, overseeing implementation of export controls, and safeguarding nuclear assets and sites.It has two committees:
  • The Employment Control Committee (ECC): The ECC is responsible for directing policy-making during the peace time and deployment of strategic forces during war time, making recommendations on the evolution of nuclear doctrine, establishing the hierarchy of command and the policy for authorizing the use of nuclear weapons, and establishing the guidelines for an effective command and control system to safeguard against accidental or unauthorized use.
  • and the Development Control Committee (DCC):The DCC is responsible for exercising technical, financial, and administrative control over the strategic organizations involved in the nuclear weapons program, and overseeing development of strategic weapons programs.

Strategic Plans Division (SPD)

The SPD was created in 1998 as the permanent secretariat for the NCA. The SPD is headed by a director general who is appointed from the army and comprises some 50–70 officers from the three services. It is responsible for formulating policy options (nuclear policy, strategy, and doctrine) for the NCA, implementing the NCA’s decisions, drafting strategic and operational plans for the deployment of strategic forces. Moreover, the SPD carries out the day-to-day management of Pakistan’s strategic forces, coordinates the activities of the different strategic organizations involved in the nuclear weapons program, and oversees budgetary, administrative and security matters.The SPD has eight directorates including
  1. The Operations and Planning Directorate,
  2. The Computerized, Control, Command, Communication, Information, Intelligence and Surveillance Directorate (CCCCIISD),
  3. The Strategic Weapons Development Directorate,
  4. and the Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs Directorate
and several divisions. One of the main divisions is the security division, which has a 10,000-strong force charged with guarding and protecting Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

The Services' Strategic Forces Command

The Services Strategic Forces Command is raised from all the three services, which all have their respective strategic force commands. It is responsible for daily and tactical operational control of nuclear weapon delivery systems (the NCA is still responsible for overall strategic operational control). This operational control includes technical, training, and administrative control over missiles and aircraft that would be used to deliver nuclear weapons.

Organization of Nuclear Command Authority.jpg
 
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HRK

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Decision-making procedures

The NCA has established strategic operational policy guidelines and plans for the deployment of nuclear weapons systems (these are national secrets). A decision to launch a nuclear strike is made by consensus within the NCA with the chairman casting the final vote. The NCA will communicate the decisions and delegate authority to implement the decision to the SDP and down the institutional hierarchy / structure.

The details of this delegation are unclear. Nonetheless, Pakistan applies a two and / or three-man rule to the authorization of assembly and use of nuclear weapons. While the number of people required in different parts of the hierarchy is likely to vary because of technical reasons no single individual in any part of the institutional hierarchy is in a position to launch a nuclear strike or operate a nuclear weapon on their own.

In addition, the NCA has the ability to cancel the decision to launch a nuclear strike up until the last minute before delivery systems are activated.There is likely to be also contingency guidelines and plans in case of a disruption to the established guidelines

Islamist takeover of the government or the military

There are also concerns that conservative Islamic forces could increase their influence over the military and gain access to nuclear weapons and materials. This scenario is based on the fact that the Pakistani military is becoming socially, ethnically, and religiously more diverse, with an increasing number of soldiers from low-income and religiously conservative backgrounds. Additionally, some elements within the military are known to have had links to Islamic extremist militant groups (such as the Taliban).

if some extremist individuals were to assume influential positions in the military, a decision to launch of nuclear weapons requires consensus among the military and civilian members of the NCA. Moreover, these individuals would need to secure the cooperation of several senior officers in order to gain access to nuclear weapons or materials.
 

HRK

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Assassination or elimination of key leaders

The second major scenario involves, fears that extremist Islamic elements could assassinate or eliminate key individuals in the command and control system and create a dangerous vacuum in the system that might make nuclear weapons and materials vulnerable to unauthorized access or use. It is true that Islamic extremists are willing to attack government figures.

This remains an unlikely scenario because it would require the simultaneous assassination and or elimination of several individuals within the command and control system. In addition, it ignores the fact that Pakistan has contingency plans in place to respond to such scenario.

Strategic implication of concerns about Pakistan's nuclear command and control system

Since 1998 Pakistan’s nuclear command and control system has been significantly improved. In the process, the risk of a failure in the system that would allow unauthorized access to nuclear materials or use of nuclear weapons has been considerably reduced. The main improvements include the establishment of the NCA and SPD, the integration of the command and control system, and the use of a two or three-man rule and indigenous Permissive Action Links (PALs) on nuclear weapons. This belief is shared by senior members of the US military including Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who in 2007 said that he did not “see any indication right now that [the] security of those weapons is in jeopardy.”

Conclusion

Since 1998, Pakistan has taken a more mature approach to the command and control of its nuclear weapons and started to promote openness. The command and control system has been significantly improved, considerably reducing the risk of unauthorized access to nuclear materials or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons. While Pakistan feels that it has already met international standards, it needs to continue to strengthen the NCA’s and SPD’s control over nuclear weapons, to improve operational procedures and promote openness.
 

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Pakistan has developed a comprehensive command and control system. Since Pakistan has tested its nukes, it has been working on a comprehensive plan to secure its nukes. That's why nuclear establishment has formulated one of the finest command and control system. It is one of the robust command and control system that has ensured safety and security of nuclear installations.
 

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