Why is nobody worried about Pakistan's nuclear program?



I'm asking about what seems to me to be a double standard in the level of concern, in the media and among world leaders, regarding the nuclear capability of two states in the Greater Middle East.

The two countries I am referring to are Iran and Pakistan. The former doesn't have nuclear weapons yet, but the prospect of it obtaining them has caused widespread alarm in the international community, with US sanctions being imposed, and more recently with the very disputed nuclear deal.

But it is no secret that Pakistan has had a nuclear bomb for some time. Furthermore:

  • It is one of the countries never to have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • It has admitted to state-sponsored terrorism, has been accused of aiding and abetting Osama Bin Laden, and has convicted the doctor Shakil Afridi who was instrumental in the CIA's effort to locate him. Radical and militant Islam is arguably more of a problem in Pakistan than it is in Iran.
  • It does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, but has solid relations with Iran. Is there really a difference opinion, between the population and political leaders of Iran and Pakistan, regarding the legitimacy of the Zionist regime? Here is an interesting article on the topic, which can be accessed using google cache.

I'm not saying there is more cause for concern for the nuclear programs of Iran and Pakistan than there is for other nuclear powers, like Russia, North Korea and Israel. I'm just interested in the comparison between Iran and Pakistan: one of them has an atom bomb, and everybody is worried about the country that doesn't yet.

Please excuse me for my ignorance on the topic, and thank you for any helpful answers.

Emilio Ferrucci

Posted 2015-04-06T13:58:02.847

Reputation: 281

1It's generally accepted that Pakistan has had nuclear weapons for over 20 years. What sanctions and/or alarm should we be raising at this point? That horse has left the barn already. – Geobits – 2015-04-06T15:18:31.420

@Geobits - I assume the question is why there aren't sanctions in place until they dismantle them. – Bobson – 2015-04-06T16:44:13.443

Who says nobody is worried? We tried to prevent Pakistan from getting a nuclear weapon and failed. – Publius – 2015-04-06T16:56:37.997

And also it's been getting no media attention, and no mention in statements of world leaders. Netanyahu keeps mentioning the "nuclear arms race" that would happen in the region if Iran got close to obtaining a nuclear weapon. Well, its neighbour and ally already has one. – Emilio Ferrucci – 2015-04-06T17:00:40.807

6@EmilioFerrucci - Probably because Pakistan never threatened to wipe another state off the map and refuse to recognize its existence. – user4012 – 2015-04-07T18:10:52.830

10There's also the argument (popular amongst academics at least) that allowing both India and Pakistan, who have a long history of conflict, to have the bomb helps to stabilise the region by preventing all-out war. – lemon – 2015-04-08T01:29:36.550

5@lemon - well it worked for US/USSR, kind of. – user4012 – 2015-04-09T01:32:07.640

1@user4012 Part of your statement is correct. While Pakistan hasn't threatened to wipe out israel or any other state, they do not acknowledge its right to exist either. They do not recognize it and have no relations with it. But that's more to do with showing symbolic solidarity with Palestine than it is do with inherent anti-Israelism. – NSNoob – 2017-01-04T11:54:16.060

1@OP, Why should Pakistani refusal to accept existance of Israel make them unqualified to hold nukes whereas UK, US are both nuclear powers and similarly do not recognize Palestinian state? If your answer is that UK and US don't want to wipe Palestine off the world, then Pakistan has never shown any intention to do the same with Israel. Pakistani nuclear program was aimed at countering the program of their arch rival India, especially as they had lost half of their country to Indian assault of 1971 so they perceived it as crucial to their survival. It's not aimed at Israel – NSNoob – 2017-01-04T11:56:48.250

3As for not signing NPT, neither has Israel or India. Why does that make it okay for them? And even though Israel never admitted officially to be a nuclear power, their nuclear arsenal is believed to be 80+. It is amusing that you completely ignored the Western nuclear powers and aimed your question solely on Eastern powers RU, NK, IN, PK. Maybe those countries have similar concerns about your Western nuclear powers? Especially as only West has a history of actually using a nuclear bomb? And you might wanna take a look at US "Nuclear oops" moments. Not very bright record there. – NSNoob – 2017-01-04T11:59:21.283

2And btw, US had sanctioned Pakistan. See Pressler amendment and Aftermath of Pakistani nuclear tests. It failed to convince them to give up their weapons because as stated earlier, they perceived nukes as necessary for their survival against India. Also, US interests soon forced them to be "friends" with Pakistan so the sanctions didn't last long. – NSNoob – 2017-01-04T12:01:45.843

Can you please explain how having good relations with Israel is a measure with which you weigh Pakistan to be able enough to have nuclear weapons? – ITguy – 2017-12-11T13:08:22.520



As Geobits said,

It's generally accepted that Pakistan has had nuclear weapons for over 20 years.

The problem with Iran is that their statements to the effect of "We're going to destroy Israel" are well-documented. Pakistan, on the other hand, isn't friendly but isn't overtly hostile. Moreover, their record on this is pretty good- when have you heard of them using a nuclear weapon?

This a crucial point. Why should anyone be worried about a nation using nuclear weapons when it never has and isn't threatening to? As an analogy think of people. If there was one person that had a gun on them and never used it, you'd be uneasy but you wouldn't do anything about it. If someone else was saying "I'm going to buy a gun and then I'm going to shoot you", you'd damn well call the police.

I agree there's a theoretical threat, but clearly Pakistan recognise that they're better off not nuking anyone. Iran has to be fanatical to make these outrageous threats, so maybe, just maybe they'd be crazy enough to actually try it.


Posted 2015-04-06T13:58:02.847

Reputation: 1 769


Iran has never made any threats, especially not about using nuclear weapons. Pakistan has made explicit threats against India in the past, e.g. after the failed Kargil war, Nawaz Sharif boasted that the next time his soldiers would take control of Srinagar. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kargil_War "U.S. intelligence had imaged Pakistani movements of nuclear weapons to forward deployments for fear of the Kargil hostilities escalating into a wider conflict."

– Count Iblis – 2015-04-09T19:48:11.070

@CountIblis - never? Funny how just one Wiki page has tons of quotes with such threats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel#2005_call_to_.22move.22_Israel

– user4012 – 2015-04-10T01:58:00.840

1Didn't Ahmadinejad clarify what he meant to Larry King? If Poroshenko makes a dubious statement, wouldn't we ask Poroshenko for clarifications about what he meant, or do we ask Putin to explain to us what Poroshenko really meant to say? – Count Iblis – 2015-04-10T02:15:26.403

5"The enemies are talking about the options [they have] on the table. They should know that the first option on our table is the annihilation of Israel" "We will not abandon our [armed] struggle until the annihilation of Israel and until we will be able to pray in al-Aqsa mosque" "The Zionist regime will soon be destroyed, and this generation will be witness to its destruction." I could give more examples if not for the character limit. Let's not question Iran's belligerency. – PointlessSpike – 2015-04-10T08:15:32.517

1What is being questioned is not Iran's belligerency but if they would use a nuclear weapon. For instance they want the annihilation of Israel in order to pray in a mosque that is in Israel. If they nuke it how are they supposed to pray in it? The annihilation they refer to is not necessarily (though the easiest) the physical representation but rather the political entity (even through war). Israel has also made threats about bombarding Iran. So no one is a saint in this issue. – Joze – 2015-07-16T13:36:44.373

3For the sake of completeness: "

TIME: You have been quoted as saying Israel should be wiped off the map. Was that merely rhetoric, or do you mean it?

Ahmadinejad: [...] Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way." So no it's not annihilation as you understand it. And this: "On 8 May 2006, Shimon Peres told Reuters that "the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map."
 – Joze  – 2015-07-16T13:40:12.520

1@Joze, firstly, Peres' statement is a response, a statement that they can defend themselves, not a promise that they will destroy them regardless of their future actions. Don't get me wrong, it is a strong statement, but it is still just a response, and can be easily construed as a deterrent. Secondly, I think it's a big reach to say "they wouldn't use nuclear weapons". Would you take a chance based on what you think Iran would do? Would you risk millions of lives? – PointlessSpike – 2015-07-16T14:53:21.447

1Well to be honest I would have preferred Israel to not have nukes. And I wouldn't be taking a chance I think, I'm not really risking millions of lives. At least not increasing the risk, Pakistan, India, Russia, North Korea are all risks, having nukes is a deterrent from war, lives are rather saved. I really don't want to get into that debate, but saying that they would use nuclear weapons is far fetched and rather groundless. They probably would use them to defend themselves... like everyone else really. – Joze – 2015-07-16T15:04:42.020

I suppose I can't comment in-depth on whether Iran would use them. But they are generally not trusted, and that remains the case whatever we may think. – PointlessSpike – 2015-07-16T15:17:25.293

1Israel poses a far greater threat to itself than Iran. If there is no two state solution, then Israel would eventually have to annex the West Bank and make it part of Israel proper. But then the Jews would become a minority. The only way Israel could remain a Jewish State would be via implementing Apartheid like policies, but such policies are unsustainable in a well established democracy like Israel. Ordinary Israeli citizens would simply not accept the loss of freedoms they too would experience. So, the end result would be more or less what Ahmedinejad predicted: a greater Palestine. – Count Iblis – 2015-07-16T16:38:35.197

So, I think he best way forward for Israel is to ignore Iran and get serious with the peace process. Why ask the Palestinians if they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, instead of getting on with the process that will lead to the desired outcome, an Israel that will remain a Jewish State within its internationally recognized borders no matter what other groups opposed to Israel say? – Count Iblis – 2015-07-16T16:41:35.023

"Wiping Israel off the map" is a very easily misunderstood phrase and it doesn't necessarily mean blowing stuff up.As a secularist,I think a state based on any ancient myth,or serving a particular ethnic group is a terrible idea, and I wish no harm on anyone, of any religious affiliation.But more to the point, it seems extremely unlikely to me that the Iranian government would strike first with a nuclear weapon...I am more worried about radical islamic groups obtaining one, which is why the official position of the state doesn't seem as relevant as the prevalence of such groups in the region. – Emilio Ferrucci – 2015-07-31T10:59:05.007

1@EmilioFerrucci, I'll give you that it's far less likely for Iran to use one compared to an extremist group. But Iran might just construct one in secret then give it to extremists. Then, when one goes off, they officially have no clue where it came from, so no official action can happen, but nudge nudge wink wink, we all know, so they get support from their people. – PointlessSpike – 2015-07-31T11:03:35.940

1@PointlessSpike Right, so an extremist group who wants to put their hands on a nuclear weapon need only look for other governments in the region which already do have a nuclear weapon, which brings us back to Pakistan. Also, history is quite clear on the standards of proof necessary for the US to use military action; they invaded Iraq on a hunch (which didn't check out), so I doubt Iran would be left alone if a nuke popped out of nowhere. That's a pretty strong deterrent to the use of nuclear force, even when covertly outsourced. – Emilio Ferrucci – 2015-07-31T12:06:18.580

1This comments section is way too long already, and my responses just beget more responses. If you want to talk about this, we can do so in chat. – PointlessSpike – 2015-07-31T12:16:15.473


You are incorrect to say, that there are double standards. You see, the is only one standard, INTEREST. Outcries, outrages, condemning, and expressing worry, are more or less, tools to secure and promote interests. They are not standards in themselves. Iran, is percieved hostile and defiant to the West. So, they would not want Iran to get a nuclear capacity. As has always been the great feat of the West, to evoke the Moral Law in whatever it does, and make everyone at the recieving end of their communication, feel , what they are doing is right. And hence, their belligerents are evil. (When was the last time you felt hostile about a country, or ideology?)

Pakistan most often walks the line US provides it. US percieves interest in Pakistan since the time of Nixon. So, US sees it favorably aligned to its own interests. So, it does not say a lot. And basically, US and the west are the dominant voices, which are percieved in the global sphere. So if you feel nobody is worried about the Pakistan Nuclear Programme, the information which you consume, is of this area.

So, what happens is normal. Nothing conspiracy.

Besides, talking of media, and what they want to cover, there are no directive principles. They show what they want to show. And most often, they will want to show what occupies there mind, or what is promoted, by , lets say anonymous agents and sources.


Posted 2015-04-06T13:58:02.847

Reputation: 683


What makes you believe nobody is worried about Pakistan?

The international reactions back in 1998 were similar to those to Iran today, including sanctions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chagai-I#International

The simple fact is that that was then and this is now. 20 years of reality don't leave others much choice but accept the fact.


Posted 2015-04-06T13:58:02.847

Reputation: 2 310


Politics is not conducted on the basis of rational scientific methods, it's based largely on irrational preferences. The reality is that the Pakistani nuclear weapons pose a much greater threat to World security than any Iranian stockpiles of nuclear weapons would, let alone Iranian enrichment facilities under strict IAEA inspections.

The reason why everyone is worried about Iran has nothing to do with the relevant facts, it is the animosity between the US and Israel vs. Iran combined with cognitive biases like the Bandwagon effect, Confirmation bias etc. etc.

Count Iblis

Posted 2015-04-06T13:58:02.847

Reputation: 3 959

3First sentence is correct (yet unreferenced :) Second sentence and on is pure opinion/speculation. Especially since USA is a lot less worried about nukes in Iran compared to say KSA which you didn't even mention (I'll randomly guess because it doesn't fit your own bias that this is all about Israel) – user4012 – 2015-04-09T23:01:10.977

2Also, "strict IAEA inspections" is a falsehood. As late as February 2015 IAEA complained that Iran was stonewalling inspecions – user4012 – 2015-04-09T23:02:32.473

1The IAEA has a different role in Iran than other NPT members because Iran got referred to the UNSC and was subject to UNSC resolutions that imposed restrictions on its nuclear program. Whether that referral was justified or not is another discussion (it was done over the objections of El Baradei). The IAEA has now a double role, besides its usual role, it has to report to the UNSC on the issues the UNSC wants clarified. Iran never accepted the extra conditions imposed on it by the UNSC, it isn't going to give clarifications on issues it thinks the IAEA has no business in getting clarified. – Count Iblis – 2015-04-09T23:21:24.800

1The fundamental issue when judging compliance or non-compliance is to consider if a country is complying (or not complying) with agreements that it signed on to, or if the problem is that foreign powers have imposed (or want to impose) conditions and the country isn't complying with those restrictions. Suppose that some countries would say to Israel that it needs to sign the NPT and give up its nukes. If Israel refuses, would that make Israel in violation of the NPT? I don't think so, but we've dealt with Iran as if this logic does apply, which is just not realistic. – Count Iblis – 2015-04-09T23:29:01.517


Why is nobody worried about Pakistan's nuclear program?

This is actually untrue.

USA and India times and again expressed concerns over the safety of Pakistan's nuclear sites.

I'm just interested in the comparison between Iran and Pakistan: one of them has an atom bomb, and everybody is worried about the country that doesn't yet.

  1. The first difference is in tone. Pakistan times and again made it clear that their nuclear program is only aimed at India and no one else. On the other hand, Iran is openly antagonistic towards Israel, not only verbally but also actively. For instance, their assistance towards Hamas, and various other Shia groups in Syria and Yemen are routinely frowned upon by Israel.

  2. The second difference is in connection with the international community. Iran is a pariah country, while Pakistan is not. Iran is a theocracy while Pakistan is an active democracy for quite some time now. Pakistan was a partner in NATO's operation in Afghanistan. The recent US-Pakistan spat is going to be a temporary one and has much to do with Indian lobbying than USA's own interest. Not to mention that NATO's supply goes through Pakistan's territory.


Posted 2015-04-06T13:58:02.847


I agree that people do think about it, but I'm not sure how much Pakistan successfully shows it's not a threat to anyone but India. Pakistan's pioneering nuclear engineer AQ Khan seems to have been key in providing nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran, and Libya. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Qadeer_Khan)

– cactus_pardner – 2018-03-28T23:43:11.320

1@cactus_pardner, that is largely considered to be AQKhan's fault, not the state's fault. At least Pakistan was able to sell the incident in that way. – None – 2018-03-29T07:12:28.973

Point 2 kind of begs the question. It's all true but the broader question is why is that. – Relaxed – 2018-11-09T20:42:32.960


I would bet, at the core of it, is the hostage situation during the Carter administration. Many in the US are still chapped about that. Unfortunately most people in the US don't know what lead to that incident...


Posted 2015-04-06T13:58:02.847

Reputation: 172

1Without you providing those details, this is meaningless. – Phil Lello – 2016-03-30T22:02:18.137