Saturday, November 28, 2009

Asif Zardari Gives Up Control of Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons

According to an article by Sabrina Tavernise and David Sanger in today's Times (here), President Asif Zardari has relinquished control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will now be in control of the 60-100 nuclear weapons in the country.

The Times article says that this change in control may portend further political turmoil and instability in Pakistan. However, the writers also state that American leaders actually prefer that the Pakistani military controls the nuclear arsenal:

In most nuclear-weapons nations, it is the civilian leadership, not the military, that is entrusted with nuclear control. But 62-year-old Pakistan has always been an exception. Its military has always been more powerful than its weak civilian governments, and American officials have always taken some solace in the fact that the military oversaw all elements of the nuclear program.

Some here argue the military wants it to stay that way. It protested vociferously when the Obama administration, which has said it wants to support democratic institutions here, extended a large civilian aid package to Pakistan this fall, the first in the history of the two countries.

Tavernise and Sanger also report that Zardari is weaker than at any point in his two years (so far) as President.

378. So, does the US have better relationships with Pakistan's military than its political leaders? That strikes me as very surprising, although I remember that David Ignatius wrote glowingly about the military chief of staff a year or so ago.

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