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Middle East
Analysis: Pakistan nuclear concerns
Islamabad says the Taliban poses no threat to its weapons. Should the US still be concerned?
Last Modified: 16 May 2009 04:22 GMT

The majority of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are near the capital Islamabad [GALLO/GETTY]

Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, says this country's nuclear weapons are under tight control, with 10,000 soldiers guarding them. There are over a dozen nuclear sites dotted around Pakistan. In the southeast there is Chagai Hills, which is the site mainly used for nuclear testing.

Further north, and closer to the North West Frontier Province, there are a cluster of sites. Recent commercial satellite photos of the Khushab sites shows two plutonium-producing reactors there. The majority of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are to be found near the capital Islamabad, and the neighbouring city of Rawalpindi.

Al Jazeera spoke to an analyst on whether US concern over the safety of Pakistan's nuclear facilities is justified. 

Saleem Hassan Ali, a Pakistani political analyst

From a risk-analysis perspective, the chance of the nuclear heads falling into the hands of the Taliban is infinitesimally small.

This is not just based on Pakistani analysis but [neighbouring] India is also confident about nuclear security.

While, of course, we should be monitoring the situation, there is a tendency to have this kind of James Bond sensationalism about it.

The military has a huge labour force that can undertake all these operations. The bigger question is morale, that is why it is very important to support what Pakistan is trying to do.

They [the military] have actually been instrumental in catching some of the leading al-Qaeda operatives.

There is a feeling of demoralisation. There is a tendency to blame all the problems of the region on Pakistan. I think there is enough blame to go around.

The refugee issue is a very serious one. That's where the international community should be focusing their efforts.

It [the war] should be thought of as an insurgency like the Farc rebels in Colombia or the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. They were long battles but certainly didn't mean the countries were dismissed as failed states.

This is a domestic challenge for Pakistan first and foremost and should be recognised as such. The global side is of greater importance to America.

But the Taliban in Swat have focused much more on the Pakistani state and have not really been as involved in international issues.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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