The Federation of American Scientists offers this about the Pakistani Nuclear Weapons program:
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program was established in 1972 by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who founded the program while he was Minister for Fuel, Power and Natural Resources, and later became President and Prime Minister. Shortly after the loss of East Pakistan in the 1971 war with India, Bhutto initiated the program with a meeting of physicists and engineers at Multan in January 1972.
India’s 1974 testing of a nuclear “device” gave Pakistan’s nuclear program new momentum. Through the late 1970s, Pakistan’s program acquired sensitive uranium enrichment technology and expertise. The 1975 arrival of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan considerably advanced these efforts. Dr. Khan is a German-trained metallurgist who brought with him knowledge of gas centrifuge technologies that he had acquired through his position at the classified URENCO uranium enrichment plant in the Netherlands. Dr. Khan also reportedly brought with him stolen uranium enrichment technologies from Europe. He was put in charge of building, equipping and operating Pakistan’s Kahuta facility, which was established in 1976.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that Pakistan has built 24-48 HEU-based nuclear warheads, and Carnegie reports that they have produced 585-800 kg of HEU, enough for 30-55 weapons. Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are based on an implosion design that uses a solid core of highly enriched uranium and requires an estimated 15-20 kg of material per warhead. According to Carnegie, Pakistan has also produced a small but unknown quantity of weapons grade plutonium, which is sufficient for an estimated 3-5 nuclear weapons.
So, conservatively speaking, somewhere between 24 and 60 nuclear weapons in all probability. These weapons are stored in secure facilities near the Northwest Territiories — as far from their nuclear neighbor India as possible without being completely in the lawless tribal regions to the northwest.
Reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan — A car bomb ripped through an Internet cafe and other businesses Saturday in a congested neighborhood of Peshawar, killing at least 11 people, including two disabled students and two teachers in a passing bus. A second bomb exploded in the northwestern city several hours later, wounding four people.
The bombings came amid continued bloodshed across Pakistan, with residents of a rural tribal region reporting 29 deaths from a suspected U.S. drone missile attack on a village and Pakistani authorities reporting that they had killed 47 more militants in their campaign to retake the Swat Valley.
In the Swat Valley campaign, the Pakistani army says it has killed more than 800 of an estimated 4,000 Taliban militants in the area and that many have fled or disguised themselves to blend in with people fleeing the fighting.
Meanwhile, the government sought Saturday to counter speculation that extremists could seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gillani complained of an “orchestrated campaign” to “discredit Pakistan’s nuclear capability.”
“We are determined to retain nuclear deterrence at all cost while ensuring fail-safe security of our nuclear assets,” he told lawmakers, according to a statement from his office.
(CIA Director Leon) Panetta was asked at a forum organised by the Pacific Council on International Policy if nuclear weapons in Pakistan are better guarded than those in the former Soviet Union.
“Obviously, we do try to understand where all of these are located,” he replied. “We don’t have, frankly, the intelligence to know where they all are located.”
He added that the US is confident that Pakistani government has a “pretty secure approach to try to protect these weapons”.
Some of Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy’s nuclear physics students will go on to oversee Pakistan’s atomic bombs. That gives him pause. “The student body has become very conservative, very Islamist, their outward appearance has changed,” says Professor Hoodbhoy, the chair of the physics department at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. “It’s row after row of these burqa women.”
Students avoid talking politics with Hoodbhoy, a cautionary voice on nuclear weapons in a nation that takes boisterous pride in having them. “They think I’m on the wrong side,” he says.
“One of our concerns is that if the worst, the unthinkable were to happen, and this advancing Taliban were to essentially topple the government … then they would have the keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan,” said US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton late last month.
Frankly,the thought of Al Qaeda or the Taliban getting hold of nuclear fissile material, let alone functional nuclear weapons, terrifies the crap out of me. These are people who see a nuclear weapon as the same thing as a IED bomb. And they most assuredly are not — nuclear weapons change everything.
And the reassurances of anyone connected to the Obama Administration do not reassure me in any way, shape, or form. Particularly anyone named ‘Clinton” has a level of distrust I usually reserve for convicted felons. or worse.
It would only take one — maybe two — nuclear weapons to strike a major American city to completely overwhelm our medical and refugee capabilities in this country.
**UPDATE** — The Times of India says it’s already too late:
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told President Obama that nuclear sites in Pakistan’s restive frontier province are “already partly” in the hands of Islamic extremists, an Israeli journal has said, amid considerable anxiety among US pundits here over Washington’s confidence in the security of the troubled nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Claims about the high-level exchange between New Delhi and Washington were made in the Debka, a journal said to have close ties with Israeli intelligence, under the headline “Singh warns Obama: Pakistan is lost.” The brief story said the Indian prime minister had named Pakistani nuclear sites in the areas which were Taliban-Qaida strongholds and said the sites are already partly in the hands of “Muslim extremists.” A sub-head to the story said “India gets ready for a Taliban-ruled nuclear neighbor.”
“Oh dear”, as Piglet says.