The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak waves away PM’s nuke fears

Islamabad, July 22: Pakistan has dismissed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s fears that its nuclear arsenal may fall into the hands of jihadis.

Islamabad’s nuclear programme and strategic assets are fully secure as they are under “strict and multi-layered custodial controls”, foreign ministry spokesman Naeem Khan said.

“Prime Minister Singh’s remarks are unfortunate and misleading,” Khan told reporters here today.

Hours earlier, Singh had told CNN that he believes Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida still has a “significant base” in Pakistan.

“I am worried about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets should President Pervez Musharraf be replaced, since there is always the danger of Islamic militants seizing power and taking control of the country’s nuclear assets,” the Prime Minister had said.

Khan said Pakistan’s nuclear capability is under an elaborate command and control mechanism, institutionalised in the shape of the National Command Authority since 2000.

“We have studied the models of command and control systems elsewhere and our multi-layered security structures are on par with the most stringent international systems and practices,” the spokesman said.

Khan also denied that al Qaida still has a base in Pakistan. “Terrorism is a global phenomenon which should not be used to malign Pakistan, fighting the war against terror as the frontline state.”

He said Pakistan has done more than most countries in fighting terrorism and has had more successes in capturing and eliminating al Qaida fugitives than all other countries combined. Pakistan has so far handed over 700 militants, mostly foreigners, to the US.

The spokesman went on to name the big catch: Ahmad Khalfan al-Ghailani, Ramzi al-Shibh, Yassir al-Jaziri, Sheikh Muhammad Omar (one of the plotters of the 9/11 attacks) and Osama bin Laden’s alleged deputy, Abu Zubaidah.

“Pakistan has paid a high price but our determination to eliminate terrorism and extremism remains firm and strong,” the official said.

Pakistan is in the business of combating terrorism ' and not in the one of creating the conditions in which terrorism thrives, “as is the position elsewhere in our neighbourhood”, he said.

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