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?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living