Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pakistan's Absent Biological Warfare Complex





Author's note: Its incredibly rare, in fact this is the first time, I've ever written about a state's non-existing biological warfare program. Although much has been written over the last couple decades with regard to Pakistan's nuclear program and proliferation by the AQ Khan network, its apparent lack of a BW program is notable. Open source literature is rather sparse on Pakistan's biological weapon programs, largely due to the fact that Pakistan does not, in my view, posses one. While an argument can certainly be made for most states in possession of a bio-pharmaceutical infrastructure that they maintain the capability to do so, it appears Pakistan has chosen not to pursue this path. 

"Pakistan signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1972, and ratified it in 1974.(1) Although it has a well developed biotechnology research and development infrastructure, there is no evidence of any Pakistani program to develop, produce, or stockpile biological weapons or agents." NTI See: http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/pakistan/biological/  
A Pakistani Think Tank: (Pakistan Defence:http://defence.pk/threads/pakistans-biological-and-chemical-weapons-capabilities.6106/) posted the statement below. While one might be tempted to debate the credibility of a Think Tank which promotes Pakistani defence issues and a specific agenda,  it is worth considering as it is in line with external, open and literary sources which I will review in relation to this statement below :

"Although allegations have been leveled against Pakistan for conducting research into biological warfare since the early 1990s, Pakistan is not suspected of either producing or stockpiling biological weapons (BW).[1] However, it is generally believed that Pakistan has a well developed bio-technology sector that is capable of supporting limited biological warfare-related research and development.[2] In 1996, the U.S. Department of Defense stated that Pakistan "had the resources and capabilities appropriate to conducting research and development relating to biological warfare," and "was conducting research and development with potential biological warfare applications."[3] But the U.S. government has not presented any evidence to corroborate its assertions.See: http//www.expressindia.com

The Pakistani government insists that it has never developed, produced, or stockpiled biological weapons or agents and that a bio-warfare program is not part of the country's defense matrix. Pakistan signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1972, which it ratified in 1974.[4] Since then, Pakistan has remained a vocal advocate for the success of the BTWC. During the various Review Conferences of the BTWC, Pakistani representatives have urged more robust participation from state signatories, invited new states to join the treaty, and as part of the non-aligned group of countries have made the case for guarantees for states' rights to engage in peaceful exchange of biological and toxin materials for purposes of scientific research.[5]

In the wake of Pakistan's May 1998 nuclear tests, the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed sanctions on a large number of government, quasi-government, and private sector entities suspected of participating in Pakistan's nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons-related delivery programs. In the process, the U.S. government also imposed sanctions on chemical and biological facilities on suspicion that they might be involved with chemical and bio-warfare programs. These four entities were: The Center for Advanced Molecular Biology, Lahore; Karachi CBW Research Institute; Karachi CW & BW Warfare R&D Laboratory; and the National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Faisalabad.[6] Despite being sanctioned, there is no independent evidence to suggest that any of the above four institutes were or are engaged in offensive biological warfare programs.

Indeed, Pakistan's focus seems to be on preventing proliferation and protecting their national public health security from external BW threats. Although dual-use is a problem for any nation with a bio-technology infrastructure, the Pakistani government has worked to increase awareness of the threat of proliferation. NTI states:


"Pakistan's biotechnology sector has continued to expand in recent years, encompassing nearly 30 institutions dealing with biotechnology and genetic engineering.(8). Of greater concern than a dedicated BW program is the possibility that dangerous dual-use biological materials from these facilities could be inadvertently exported or fall into the hands of non-state actors as a result of possible weaknesses in Pakistan's export control and biological security systems. Since the mid-2000's Pakistan has increased its regulation of the biological industry, issuing a set of bio safety rules in 2005 which established a National Biosafety Committee to create guidelines, issue export licenses, and inspect facilities dealing with 'living modified organisms or genetically modified organisms." (9) Islamabad has also taken measures to improve its WMD-relevant export controls. See:http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/pakistan/biological/  It certainly is interesting to see a nation such as Pakistan which has entered the nuclear club, refrain from developing biological weapons which is a general track nations seeking Weapons of Mass Destruction tend to take. The Arms Control Association, a well known non-proliferation think tank state's:  No government has alleged Pakistan is violating its Biological Weapons Convention commitments. Islamabad has not filed a voluntary BWC confidence building declaration." However I will note that a large number of countries have failed to do so as welll, so this is not an indicator in any way of non-compliance. See: http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/pakistanprofile
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