Pakistan’s high commissioner to London has defended the country’s record on nuclear security after leaked diplomatic documents suggested Britain has “deep concerns” about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.
Wajid Shamsul Hasan accused the West of hypocrisy and warned that the failure to prevent the leaks would damage relations. He said his country was no more likely to accept US help on the issue than America was to have allowed Pakistan to help protect the Twin Towers or the Pentagon.
“As a democratic government, we are committed to the peaceful preservation and non-proliferation,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Whatever happened, happened during the days of General Pervez Musharraf when he was the darling of the West.
“We have had 27 months in power. We have had a very successful, foolproof control and command system looking after the nuclear arsenal and there is no question of it falling into the hands of any miscreants.”
It was easy to “build a whole mountain out of a molehill” on the basis of the WikiLeaks documents, he added. “WikiLeaks has said so many things. They have said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia do not have good relations, which is nonsense – Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have brotherly relations.”
The documents from the latest cache of leaked US cables demonstrate that the UK and the US have similar anxieties about Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal.
US officials are quoted citing the danger of Pakistani fissile material finding its way into the hands of extremists. The UK’s concerns were communicated to the US by Mariot Leslie, then the Foreign Office’s director general of defence and intelligence, at a meeting in September last year.
Now Britain’s permanent representative to Nato, she is quoted as saying that “the UK has deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”. She goes on to say that China could play a “big role” in “stabilising Pakistan”.
The Ministry of Defence’s director general for security policy, Jon Day, warned US officials separately that relations between Pakistan and India were especially strained. He expressed support for the encouragement of a ‘cold-war’-like relationship between the two countries that would “introduce a degree of certainty” and apparently went on to say that Pakistan was “not going in a good direction”.
The disclosures could test relations between Britain and Pakistan, a vitally important regional ally and neighbour of Afghanistan. The Foreign Office said it would not comment on the detail of the documents obtained by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian.