Security fears over Zardari's nuclear arsenal

Pakistan is portrayed in newly released secret cables as an unreliable friend to the United States and Britain, with a civilian leader who worries about being "taken out" by his army and an ingrained ambivalence about co-operating fully on nuclear proliferation and the fight against terror.

The revelations, many drawn from diplomatic messages sent from Islamabad by Anne Patterson, the US ambassador there until October, to the State Department in Washington, are likely further to strain the already extremely complicated relationship between Pakistan and America.

Some of her cables are concerned with alleged foot-dragging by Pakistan to follow through with an agreement reached in 2007 to allow the US to remove for safekeeping a stockpile of highly enriched uranium near one of its nuclear energy plants. The uranium is no longer needed for the plant but could be used for bombs. It remains in Pakistan today.

"Our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in the government of Pakistan facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon," Ms Patterson told her superiors in Washington in February 2009.

It was during a conversation with Vice President Joseph Biden that Pakistan's President, Asif Ali Zardari, allegedly alluded to his own political weakness by saying that his military "might take me out".

Mr Biden travelled to the country shortly before his inauguration at the start of 2009 and, in a conversation about pursuing the Taliban and al-Qa'ida, asked Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani if he could be sure they "had the same enemy as we move forward". The latter, according to one cable, responded: "We are on the same page in Afghanistan, but there might be different tactics." Thus Mr Biden came home with little clarity.

There is potential embarrassment for Islamabad in parts of the cables that reveal in black and white that even last year, the Pakistan Army had acquiesced to have a small number of US Special Operations soldiers travel with it on patrols in parts of the country's north-west, where the Taliban and groups supporting them have bases.

But it is the issue of the fissile material that is most awkward. The cables show that the concern of the US is shared by Britain. "The UK has deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons," Mariot Leslie, a senior Foreign Office official, is reported as telling a US counterpart in September last year.

Ambassador Patterson says in one cable that Pakistan was balking on removal of the material for fear the transaction would leak to the media, which would portray it as America trying to rob the country of its nuclear capability. The Pakistani government had concluded that "the 'sensational' international and local media coverage of Pakistan's nuclear weapons made it impossible to proceed at this time".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'