Is a Zardari NFU policy a Pakistani NFU policy too?

That is now a very important question

Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, used a Q&A session at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit to announce that Pakistan “will not be the first country ever to use (nuclear weapons). I hope that things never come to a stage where we have to even think about using nuclear weapons”.

On the face of it, it is a welcome development. If only, that is, Mr Zardari is anywhere close to having an influence, let alone control, over his country’s nuclear arsenal. When his wife was prime minister, the Pakistani army didn’t even allow her to visit the facilities where nuclear weapons were being developed. As president, the National Command Authority is nominally under him, but the Strategic Plans Division—the organisation that is supposed to be in actual control—de facto reports to the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani. (Technically, the SPD reports to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, but try explaining that to the army chief.)

It is unclear if General Kayani and the SPD agree with Mr Zardari’s declaration of a no first use policy. So we’ll have to wait for clarifications, retractions and suggestions that Mr Zardari was misquoted. If Pakistan indeed seeks to adopt a no first use policy, then a platform more credible than a Q&A session should be used to reiterate the commitment. Until either of this happens, Mr Zardari’s statement is non-credible at best, and ‘noisy’ at worst.

It is best that Pakistan clears the air promptly.

Update: Well, Mr Zardari himself was only playing with words to the galleries. It was noise.

When asked if Pakistan would adopt the policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, he said, “Most definitely, yes, we hope we will never get into that position (of using nuclear weapons). I am for a South Asian Non-nuclear Treaty.”

“I can get my Parliament to agree to it right away,” he said. “Can you (India) get your Parliament to agree to it?” [IE]

He should understand that such flippancy ultimately damages the credibility of Pakistan’s civilian leadership. And Karan Thapar, who moderated the session, should be less credulous and more probing, especially on such matters.

6 thoughts on “Is a Zardari NFU policy a Pakistani NFU policy too?”

  1. Chandra,

    Hey, you’re right! He could use the phrasing to say that his statement was misinterpreted.

  2. Zardari carries about as much weight as Musharraf’s pet poodles.

    I don’t know which audience his remarks are aimed at, but I find his buffoonery equally chagrining as when he was ogling Gov. Sarah Palin.

    “Don’t worry, Sarah daahleeeng, I won’t make the first move on you — I’ll wait until you make a move on me”

    He’s like a Pakistani Yeltsin, isn’t he? Why can’t he just keep himself in a drunken stupor, so that we don’t have to make sense of his words.

  3. Just the region of South Asia wasn’t our concern when we developed our nuclear weapons, there were and are non-South Asian aspects to it. And Zardari should know, our foreign policy horizon. unlike theirs, goes beyond the countries on our eastern and western borders.

    On the whole, not worth pondering upon. He was speaking at a media summit after all. Just look at the way HT goes ogling all over Blair’s comments. Who’s he anyway? and please enlighten me, what Cherie Clair has done to get to speak there?

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