Islamabad: Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday asserted that the country’s nuclear weapons are ‘200 per cent safe’ despite a series of terror attacks on military installations. Agencies
Malik has said the country has strong monitoring and control mechanisms in place to protect its atomic programme.
Though the recent attack on the PNS Mehran naval airbase in Karachi and detection of Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad triggered fears that there could be rogue elements in Pakistani military, Malik told Newsweek magazine that the country's "nuclear weapons are 200 per cent safe."
"The assets are well protected and tightly monitored. The (International Atomic Energy Agency) agrees with us. We should be wary of the disinformation being spread against our nuclear programme, including the suggestion that the US may move to denuclearise Pakistan," he said.
Top US Senator John Kerry, during a recent visit to Pakistan, addressed this "misperception and categorically denied any intention on the part of the US" to take any step against the country's nuclear assets, Malik said.
"We have strong monitoring and control mechanisms in place to ensure that no harm can be done to our nuclear programme," he said.
Malik also said some retired military officers or relatives of armed forces personnel may have been involved in the May 22 terrorist raid on the Naval airbase in Karachi that killed 10 people and destroyed two surveillance aircraft.
"The way it was done, I suspect some retired officers or some soldier's relatives may have been involved," Malik said about the attack on the PNS Mehran naval airbase.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out to avenge the killing of bin Laden in a US raid last month. Malik admitted that "things have heated up" in Pakistan since bin Laden's killing in a US raid in Abbottabad on May 2 and the country "must brace for the worst."
"After Abbottabad, there's been a surge of emotions on all sides and we're living the fallout from that. The militants are now avenging bin Laden's death and what we're up against now is terrorism-plus. They've threatened to take out key installations and civilian and military officials," he said.
The police force and intelligence agencies are "underfunded and overstretched" and Pakistan's "installations, airports, defence and government assets are so spread out that
it's impossible to monitor every single inch," Malik said.
Pakistan's allies have "been unable to fully deliver on their promise of helping us build capacity," he added.
"We've suffered tremendously and we'll fight until the last terrorist is killed. It is our resolve to eliminate the militants not only for the sake of Pakistan but also the world," Malik contended.
Replying to a question about the people arrested from bin Laden's compound after the US raid on May 2, Malik said, "We have three of his wives and some children.”
"We're obtaining information from them and this is being shared with our friends. After this process is completed, we'll see if their home countries want them back. One of bin Laden's sons was killed in the US raid and reports about the escape of another son are "pure conjecture," he said.
Asked what would happen if al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri or Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar are found in Pakistan, Malik replied: "They're wanted in Pakistan so if we
find them, we will take them on here. We've also decided to act jointly with the Americans against any high-value targets pinpointed in Pakistan."
On the issue of David Headley’s confession of linking ISI with Mumbai attacks during his testimony in a US court, Malik described him as a convict who has "no credibility and cannot be trusted."
In an apparent effort to play down Headley's testimony that detailed the alleged links of ISI officials to the 2008 attacks in India's financial hub, Malik questioned whether Headley could corroborate his claims about Pakistan's spy agency.
"Headley's father was a Pakistani from a good family. Headley himself is a criminal and a convict... This man has no credibility and cannot be trusted," Malik said.
Asked if he was concerned about Headley's testimony at the US trial of Tahawwur Rana, another key suspect in the Mumbai attacks, and its repercussions for Pakistan, Malik said
if Headley "has credible evidence that can stand in a court of law to support his claim that he was being aided by the ISI, he should present it."
"He's made videos of the places he was casing in Mumbai. Does he have any recordings that corroborate his claims against the so-called ISI major?" Malik said.
Testifying as a prosecution witness at Rana's trial in a federal court in Chicago, 50-year-old Headley said he worked with ISI officers, including one Major Iqbal, on planning and facilitating the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. He also told the court that the ISI coordinated activities by LeT and other militant groups.
Six Pakistanis, including al-Qaeda-linked terror mastermind Ilyas Kashmiri and Major Iqbal, have been indicted by US authorities in the Mumbai conspiracy.
Islamabad: Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday asserted that the country’s nuclear weapons are ‘200 per cent safe’ despite a series of terror attacks on military installations.