"Pakistan’s economic distress has put the spotlight on the country’s nuclear arsenal and its long-range missiles. Bristling with indignation, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has tried to assure the world, and also his parliament, that the country’s nuclear and missile programmes are for deterrence.
However, his Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has been combative. On Thursday, he said nobody has the right to tell Pakistan what range of missiles should it possess, adding that the country will not abandon its long-range nuclear missiles.
Referring to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dar told the Pakistani parliament in front of numerous foreign ambassadors: “Nobody has any right to tell Pakistan what range of missiles it can have and what nuclear weapons it can have. We have to have our own deterrence”.
Experts say that Dar’s remarks may stem from coalition partner Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)’s MP Raza Rabbani questioning the government that the people of Pakistan have a right to know if the country’s nuclear assets are under pressure. Rabbani also alleged that the Senate (Pakistani parliament) had “neither before nor today been taken into confidence on what are the conditionalities of the IMF”, and asked the Nawaz Sharif government whether the delay by the IMF was due to pressure on the country’s nuclear programme or its strategic relationship with China.
In fact, Rabbani’s posturing in the parliament forced Sharif to respond through a tweet on Thursday night. Sharif tweeted: “The misleading speculations about Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme are unfortunate. The stringent, fool-proof & multi-layered security safeguards, duly testified by IAEA, are in place. Our nuclear program represents the unwavering consensus of the nation & is for deterrence”.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that there would be “no compromise” on the country’s nuclear and missile programme and they are “jealously guarded by the state”. He added that in the wake of recent statements, press releases, and various assertions about Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme, wherein even a traditional routine visit of DG IAEA Rafael Mariano Grossi for peaceful nuclear programme was portrayed in a negative light.
To the rest of the world, the statements by the two top politicians of the ruling party seem unjustifiable considering that all top Pakistani leaders have traversed the world asking for loans and bailout funds. To the world, expenditure on nuclear weapons and long-range missiles does not seem justified when the country faces historic inflation and food shortages."
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