Michael KreponBaton Passes in Pakistan

We are so used to hearing bad news about Pakistan that good news can go under the radar. Since May, there has been a changing of the guard at the positions of Prime Minister, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the President, all without wrenching national debate or damaging machinations. To put it mildly, Pakistan continues to face daunting problems, especially when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif only places confidence in an inner circle with little circumference, and when he is taking so long to tackle alarming domestic trends. But when judged by previous bumpy or wrenching leadership transitions, Pakistan is making progress.

Another baton pass: Lt. Gen. (ret.) Khalid Kidwai has stepped down as Director-General of the Strategic Plans Division. He has been in charge on Pakistan’s nuclear program for fifteen years, beginning even before the SPD was stood up. His successor is Lt Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat. Some US commentary has expressed concern about new sources of instability that might result from this baton pass. Transitions don’t always go well, but the absence of transition can stunt institutional growth and professional development. Mature, successful institutions have to pass this test. No one individual or institution is foolproof, but Gen. Kidwai has developed procedures and programs that will supersede him. I expect a successful hand-off at the SPD.

Rawalpindi has defined its nuclear weapon-related requirements expansively. When it comes to military and civil nuclear programs, Pakistan seems intent to compete with India. Gen. Zubair will probably preside over a period of consolidation, as Pakistan picks winners and losers among the many types of missiles it has flight tested. At the same time, production capacity for bomb-making material will grow, the sea-based leg of Pakistan’s deterrent will take shape, and warhead numbers will continue to rise. Major shifts in Pakistan’s nuclear plans and policies seem unlikely, but requirements could climb even higher, depending on developments in India and how Rawalpindi chooses to react to them.

Pakistan’s nuclear requirements could gain further elevation if China and India flight test MIRVs or deploy ballistic missile defenses, if nuclear enclaves in the region move toward counterforce targeting, and if requirements for tactical nuclear weapons are defined expansively. Any one of these developments, as well as another crisis or military clash with India, could induce still more growth in Pakistan’s production infrastructure – unless or until Rawalpindi’s impulse to measure itself against India on nuclear weapons subsides.


  1. Anjaan (History)

    Pakistan’s policy of seeking parity with 10 times larger India, has always been encouraged and fueled by its closest allies Britain and the US, with covert and overt support … Pakistan’s nuke development has been subsidized, through direct Saudi investments, and indirect support from the US military and economic aid of tens of billions of dollars …

  2. Anon (History)

    To go by what’s in the news lately, the United States might owe Pakistan an apology for all its harangues over nuclear security.

  3. Sonia (History)

    History of nuclear weapons in South Asia tells that they have been introduced by the India and later on Pakistan followed suit out of its security concerns. If we compare history with today’s time then its a clear fact that the security scenario of South Asia is majorly revolves around Pakistan and India and also the way they follow the action reaction phenomenon. India’s conventional superiority, military buildup fueled by the western political and economical interests raises concerns for the government of Pakistan. For the sake securing Pakistn’s national interest it has to build up its military muscles Vis-a-Vis India. The author has very rightly said that “Major shifts in Pakistan’s nuclear plans and policies seem unlikely, but requirements could climb even higher, depending on developments in India and how Rawalpindi chooses to react to them”, which shows that Pakistan’s quest for developing nuclear weapons have been and will be dependent upon the India’s action.

  4. Sonia (History)

    As long as the succession of DG SPD is concerned, it is a normal procedure of any democratic system. Gen.Khalid Kidwai has been succeeded by Gen Zubair Hayat. Gen Kidwai has established the command and control structure and has set the rules and norms for the safety and security of Pakistan’s sensitive sites and arsenals. The current DG SPD who is known for his bravity, courage, and honour will definately serve his tenure with great responsibility and will enhance the efficiency of the already settled norms and standards of the establishment.

    • RAJ47 (History)

      A tenure of 14 years is normal procedure in only one democratic system.

  5. Usman (History)

    Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which oversees all aspects of its nuclear deterrent. Mr.Kidwai had the privilege of presiding over the most challenging period post-1998 tests, and uncharted territory had to be covered with no prior experience, especially establishing the command-and-control structure for the nuclear program and the strategic forces, with an emphasis on establishing a safety and security architecture that has earned the respect of the international community; dealing with the 2002 and 2008 crises and India’s cold-start doctrine, managing international nuclear diplomacy while maintaining Pakistan’s strategic interests; dealing with the A.Q. Khan episode of illicit nuclear proliferation; and expansion of the civilian nuclear energy base with Chinese assistance. Brian Cloughley, former Australian defense attache to Islamabad, said Hayat seems quite competent and “did well at staff college in the UK.

  6. Malik Anjum (History)

    India gets the nuclear deal and Pakistan’s nuclear program is subsidized by the U.S. and UK.
    as Kidwai would put it : Every gram of nuclear material supplied to India for civilian purposes frees another gram for military use.
    and with due respect sir MK your argument is flawed. Nuclear weapons do not require parity. No state needs to match number for number. likewise Pakistan doesnot feel obliged to do that
    Indian superiority was lost as soon as Pakistan tested its nuclear weapons.

  7. Khurram Saeed (History)

    Pakistan’s threat assessment is right over the Indian increasing conventional arms and missile capabilities and the most concerned here is if India chooses the offensive approach towards the territories Pakistan. Pakistan must prepare all possible ways to defend its territories, nuclear weapons program is expensive never the less we have to assure the security.

  8. RAJ47 (History)

    The sea leg is already operational.
    HQ inaugurated by Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Mohammad Asif Sandila in 2012 along with Lt Gen (Retd)Kidwai & others.
    Its a state of art HQ based on design provided by US company.
    V Adm Tanveer Faiz is the Commander, NSFC.
    Babur allegedly test fired from new F-22.
    Since 2009, PN has tested naval version of Babur.

  9. Michael Moser (History)

    How did India and Pakistan manage to proceed with a massive nuclear buildup without an extensive test program ? did they gain have enough confidence from mathematical simulations ? How do they know that the stockpiled weapons still work ?