Islamabad: Pakistan today rejected US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s remarks that its nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists, saying the country’s strategic nuclear assets were safe under a robust command and control system.
Reacting to Panetta’s comments, Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan told a weekly news briefing that the world should not have concerns about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Elaborate measures are in place to secure these assets, he said.
During a news conference in Washington on Tuesday, Panetta had said: “The great danger we’ve always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in (Pakistan), then those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands”.
Panetta further said it was important for Pakistan “to recognize that threat and to act against that threat” as the country is a nuclear power. Khan’s remarks came hours after a group of terrorists stormed the Kamra airbase in Punjab, which is believed to house nuclear weapons.
Nine terrorists and a soldier were killed during the attack. The spokesman responded to a question about the possibility of military action in North Waziristan tribal region in cooperation with the US by saying that Pakistan would not compromise on its sovereignty.
No foreign troops will be allowed to conduct operations in Pakistani territory, he said. “This is a question of Pakistan’s sovereignty and we have made it clear from day one that fighting extremism and terrorism on our territory remains Pakistan’s responsibility…We are quite active in handling the situation on our own,” he said.
However, Pakistan is cooperating with the world in terms of intelligence-sharing for the war against terrorism, Khan said.
Pakistan and the US are continuing their engagements on various fronts, including economic, security and political. “It has been the desire on both sides to cooperate in these areas to their mutual benefit,” he added.
Asked about cross-border incursions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Khan said both countries are engaging each other on the issue and Pakistan is also engaging the International Security Assistance Force. Responding to a question about the Syrian crisis, Khan said the deteriorating situation in Syria is a matter of concern for Pakistan, which feels the bloodshed must stop immediately.
The decision by the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation to suspend the membership of Syria was made by a majority of the members of the grouping, he said.
Pakistan feels that there could be a peaceful and political solution of the Syrian crisis based on the principles of non-interference and non-intervention and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria, Khan said.