Pakistan’s rush for more bombs — why?

Pervez Hoodbhoy in the Express Tribune:

ScreenHunter_03 Jan. 31 16.52On January 24, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon vented his frustration at Pakistan’s determined opposition to a treaty that would limit fissile material production for use in nuclear weapons. For three years, Pakistan has single-handedly — and successfully — blocked the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva from discussing an effort that would reduce nuclear weapons globally. Consequently, within diplomatic circles, Pakistan has acquired the reputation of an outlier that opposes all efforts towards this end.

The opposition comes in the backdrop of news that Pakistan has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal. This claim — which still reverberates around the world — was first published in a Bulletin of Atomic Scientists report entitled “Pakistan’s nuclear forces — 2011”. The authors, Hans M Kristensen and Robert S Norris, say although the numbers of Pakistani warheads and delivery vehicles is a closely-held secret, yet “we estimate that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons stockpile of 90-110 nuclear warheads, an increase from the estimated 70-90 warheads in 2009”. They reckon that if the expansion continues, Pakistan’s stockpile could reach 150-200 in a few years. By this count, Pakistan’s arsenal may have already exceeded India’s, and will soon rival Britain’s.

The Bulletin report has not been denied by Pakistan. Its stockpile of highly enriched uranium is increased daily by thousands of centrifuges whirring away at the Kahuta Laboratory (and possibly elsewhere). This is augmented by plutonium producing reactors at Khushab; two are already at work and a third is undergoing trials. Google Earth photos show that a fourth one is under construction. The plutonium has no commercial purpose. Instead, the goal is to produce lighter but deadlier bombs to be fitted on to missile tips.

More here.