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To sign or not to sign?

Feb 07 - 13, 2000

"Yes" or "No" to Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the question which has become the talk of the town in Pakistan because of the mounting pressures from the developed world especially the United States.

It is however amazing that on one side Pakistan is being pressurised for signing the treaty, the country like US which is the great advocate of the CTBT finds it difficult to get the treaty ratified by its own Senate on the other hand.

Notwithstanding the fact that after the Senate declined to ratify the treaty, the US has lost a moral ground to pressurise other nations, yet people having a moderate approach feel that there was nothing wrong in signing the CTBT being friendly to the human life and values provided a level ground is made available to all the signatories.

Unfortunately, the situation is not so conducive in case of this region. It is a known fact that Pakistan's security is threatened due to aggressive designs of neighbouring India which has already imposed 3 wars on Pakistan since 1947.

Instead of showing any respect to the security and honour of the neighbours, the Indian leadership has publicly declared its political agenda to declare Pakistan as a terrorist state. The recent hijacking drama of Indian Airliner from Kathmandu manipulated by India is an obvious paradigm of the conspiracies being hatched to malign Pakistan in terrorist activities.

National Command Authority

In order to deal with the sensitive issue, the present government has wisely decided to involve the National Security Council (NSC) to deliberate on this subject and take a decision in accordance with the security imperatives of Pakistan.

Responding to the assignment, the NSC has approved the establishment of National Command Authority (NCA) to act in accordance with Pakistan's nuclear policy of responsibility and restraint and with the objective of creating an institutionalized command and control mechanism, consistent with obligations as a nuclear power.

The NCA will be responsible for policy formulation and will exercise employment and development control over all strategic nuclear forces and strategic organizations in Pakistan.

It is worth mentioning here that Pakistan had already taken the initiative last year to evolve its policy of nuclear restraint based on the following guidelines:

--Pakistan will adhere to the policy of restraint which is now termed as Nuclear Restraint Regime.

-- Since Pakistan had achieved the objectives of its nuclear programme, the level of enrichment was brought down from 95 per cent and above to 5 per cent and below to carry out the nuclear policy within the available economic resources.

--Pakistan out of its own free will, was to demonstrate that the principle of non-proliferation was being adhered to, as it was a restraint based on good judgment.


* CTBT is the brain child of a single country i.e. the United States.

* The idea of CTBT was initiated in 1996.

* Currently 40 countries either have nuclear reactor or the capability.

* India-Pakistan and North Korea have yet to sign the treaty.


Generally speaking, there are two factions of the people including politicians, intellectuals, representatives of trade and industry and security experts having varied opinion about signing the treaty. While one of them are backing the treaty while others are in the opposite camp, however both factions carry "ifs" and "buts" in their suggestions.

Those who are in favour of the opinion that currently Pakistan's economy is passing through its most difficult times. It will be appropriate to mention the proceedings of a recent debate on this issue in which prominent opinion makers had a common view that Pakistan can go for the treaty if the US and other international lenders agree to offer substantial incentives. Former diplomat Mehdi Masud expressing his view on the issue suggested that Pakistan should ask the US for withdrawal of all sorts of sanctions against Pakistan and matching incentives which have been allowed to India.

Prof. Ghafoor Ahmed of Jamat-i-Islami however expressed differently. Opposing the idea of signing the treaty, Prof Ghafoor said that it is the nuclear capability which has effectively countered the possible aggression from India. Prof. Ghafoor suggested that Pakistan can sign the treaty provided the five super powers are agreed to destroy the piles of nuclear heads. The Kashmir issue is resolved in accordance with the resolutions of the UN. The United Nations be reactivated and reorganized in the light of its own manifesto. A total ban be declared on the international trade of conventional weapons.

Former federal minister S. M. Masood said that there is no harm in signing the treaty as the option for cold test would be available even after signing the treaty.

Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani, Chief of the Jamiat Ulemae Pakistan in a statement has said only elected representatives of the people had the right to decide whether to sign the CTBT or not.

He was of the opinion that the objective of the United States to get the treaty signed by Pakistan was to eliminate it as the sole Muslim nuclear power.

He said that the people feared that the political government could not protect the nuclear programme and if the army was to sign the CTBT, it would certainly create a schism between the armed forces and the people as had been witnessed in Algeria. He expressed the hope that the armed forces would take a decision which was in the best interest of Pakistan.

Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Amir of Jamat-i-Islami has recently said that unless the Kashmir issue is resolved Pakistan should take a firm stand against the treaty. Pakistan should be treated at par with other states having nuclear power.

Referring to the arrogant attitude of India, Israel and others, he said that these states have to be tamed to show respect for the human values and justice.

It may be mentioned that more or less similar views have been expressed by the central leadership of the ousted Pakistan Muslim League. According to Ejaz Shafi, a central leader of PML, the elected representatives and the parliament has the jurisdiction to decide whether Pakistan should go for CTBT or not.

Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehrik Insaf has demanded of the present government that CTBT be linked with the solution of Kashmir issue in accordance with the UN resolutions and compensations from the World Bank and the IMF.

He has also demanded a referendum to have a public opinion on the CTBT. He said that India and Pakistan had fought 3 wars only because of Kashmir issue and even today India is out to declare Pakistan as a terrorist state. Historically speaking Pakistan never waged war against India, it was India which was an aggressor against Pakistan. It was India which bifurcated Pakistan into two parts and today interfering in Pakistan's internal affairs. All these facts are enough to prove that there is a great danger to Pakistan's security. Under these circumstances Pakistan should not enter the treaty without a massive support from the people of Pakistan.

Ghinwa Bhutto, Chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party (Shaheed Bhutto Group) has urged the government to sign the CTBT. She has urged the government that there was no justification for delaying its signing.

Ghinwa talking to her party office-bearers and workers said that no damage would be caused to the image and solidarity of the country by signing the CTBT.


The representatives of the business community are more concerned about what they called it the ever growing foreign debt which is somewhere in the region of $34 billion. They feel that the debt servicing was causing crippling effects on the economy as over 96 per cent of the total GDP of the country is being drained out in debt servicing. They feel that the national economy has been given a breather for a limited period of one year through rescheduling of the loans. Although the rescheduling has given a temporary relief on one hand but the loans have been piled up for the next year. The economic reforms introduced by the government may provide some relief for the time being it may however not sufficient to resolve the issue in the wider prospects. Haji Yaqub Karim, former chairman SITE Association of Industry was also of the view that the signing of the CTBT should be linked with the solution of the Kashmir issue which is root cause for various economic ills for Pakistan. He said that one of the reasons behind piling of up of the huge foreign debt was political unrest between India and Pakistan hence there is every justification in asking for some instant incentives from IMF and the World Bank to reduce the burden of huge foreign debt. On the other hand there should be some concrete steps to resolve the Kashmir Issue to bring peace and prosperity in this region. Since the doctrine behind the CTBT is to ensure global peace and security, the solution of Kashmir issue be placed on top of the agenda by the US who is the champion for the cause of peace and tranquillity through CTBT.

In order to get rid of this difficult economic situation, signing of the CTBT can be used as a bargaining leverage to get maximum compensation in the shape of the write offs of the foreign debt, Yaqub Karim said..

Aviation experts have expressed surprise over Indian latitude they provided to the hijackers to fly uninterrupted from Amritsar where they had landed for fueling the hijacked plane. They let it to go only because it was the part of the plan to get Pakistan involved in terrorist activities.

The Indian efforts to declare Pakistan as a terrorist state were however proved a futile exercise due to fabricated informations unleashed by Indian lobbyists and media. So much so, even the US Congress has started realizing that declaring Pakistan as terrorist country would not serve any purpose.


Doug Bereuter, Chairman of the Asian and Pacific sub-committee of the House of Foreign Relations Committee has recently said that he does not believe that such a move is appropriate or is in the US national interest, certainly not on the basis of the information available and verified. Beside rejecting the reports spread by Indians against Pakistan by declaring them as unauthenticated he also considered the interests of the United States. He said that placing Pakistan on the list of terrorist countries would mean that we have totally cut off Pakistan, that we thereby no longer seek to influence the course of events in Pakistan.

Bereuter said the US nuclear policy to deter proliferation and push would-be nuclear powers had failed and should be replaced. "It almost certainly served a useful purpose, but ultimately it did not succeed. This policy may have helped deter proliferation for many years, but with the nuclear tests that time has passed.

"Laws that were enacted to deter proliferation now, limit our ability to engage in very important ways with India and Pakistan to actually avoid nuclear confrontation, he observed.

He said that the US now should work closely with India and Pakistan to better assure that the control of this nuclear capability in their hands is as safe as possible.

" We have fail-safe technology and experience with redundant command and control systems, elements of which we can share, to ensure that inadvertent or unauthorized nuclear launches do not occur" he suggested.

According to Bereuter it was extremely important for India and Pakistan to have such technology. Hem recalled that Kargil crisis and said there were widespread rumours in both India and Pakistan of imminent nuclear attack by the other wide.

With armies mobilizing and air planes being lost, the risk of escalation was very real. In such a situation, emergency inter-country communications channels and secure command and control of nuclear assets are essential, he felt.


Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes has described the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty(CTBT) as a moribund document, with little chance of short term resuscitation.

Last year's vote by the US Senate against ratification of the CTBT resulted in the treaty sliding into a coma, Fernandes said in the inaugural address to an international conference on Asian Security in the 21st Century.

"This has introduced serious uncertainties about the treaty coming into force in the foreseeable future, Fernandes said.

India has been under intense US pressure to sign the CTBT since it conducted a series of underground nuclear tests in May 1998.

During his speech Fernandes stressed India's nuclear policy was purely defensive and "very close" in nature to that of its giant neighbour China.

"We are committed not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. Our strategy therefore, will be one of retaliation only".

This policy should reassure everyone who is not contemplating of posing a threat to India.

Fernandes also called for an "international" condition to combat " cross-border terrorism in Asia" which he warned was being driven by drug trafficking, money laundering and "religious extremism".

"What we are experiencing is the continuing tragedy imposed on innocent people by Pakistan, through its international transborder terrorism for over 15 years" Fernandes alleged.

"The level and viciousness of violence has been increasing. Fernandes used his speech to deliver a timely plug for greater defence spending ahead of Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha's budget scheduled to be unveiled on Feb 29.

Reductions in defence spending to 1.3 per cent of gross domestic product last year from 3.6 per cent in the mid-1980s had seriously affected the military's modernization and preparedness, he said.

Our experts feel that we must possess conventional capability of a sufficiently high level in order to lift the nuclear threshold as much as possible.

Bill Clinton's visit

Although President Bill Clinton's visit to South Asia was not directly related to the signing of the treaty, yet it is generally being felt that itinerary of his visit South Asia includes India and Bangladesh while there is no mention about Pakistan.

While accepting the credentials of Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistani's new Ambassador to Washington, President Clinton although reaffirmed his commitment to work intensively to see the dialogue between Pakistan and India resumed on all issues, yet he did not mention whether he would like to visit Pakistan as well. One can only wonder how the visit to South Asia without including Pakistan can be stated as a success visit to this region. People are of the view that President Bill Clinton who is a great advocate of CTBT is using his visit as a sort of pressure tactics against Pakistan. The President will visit India from March 20 for five days and will arrive in Bangladesh on March 25. Experts in International Relations feel that the visiting South Asia without Pakistan is beyond imagination. The change in itinerary is expected any time. They feel that President Clinton is playing his last innings in the face of forthcoming presidential elections in the United States and most probably he would like to make his visit a success by including Pakistan in his itinerary.

Under these circumstances there are strong feelings that signing of the CTBT at this stage would not be in the national interest of Pakistan. There is absolutely no hurry at this stage to say yes or no to the treaty.

Signing the CTBT by Pakistan should be seen in the backdrop of the chronic Kashmir issue posing a serious threat to the security of Pakistan and Indian conspiracies to declare Pakistan as a terrorist state.

Pakistan being the only country within the Islamic world to have the distinction to achieve the nuclear capability. This is a status which is not being swallowed by the anti-Pakistan forces for the reasons best known to them. People in Pakistan are however not ignorant to this fact. They feel that they have every right to live in peace and prosperity by applying the modern technologies their scientists have achieved for socio-economic uplift of the 140 million people living in Pakistan.