What great timing. On Aug. 16, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke to reporters at the Pentagon about a new report from the Congressional Research Service entitled “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues” (online as a PDF at the Federation of American Scientists). Panetta said: “The great danger we’ve always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in their country then those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands.” That same day, militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan attacked Minhas Air Force Base near Kamra, outside Islamabad—a site where aviation research takes place, and is believed to be closely linked to Pakistan’s nuclear program. Nine attackers and one guard were killed, a senior officer injured, and a surveillance plane damaged. It was the fourth and most audacious attack on the base. Pakistan Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility, saying it was revenge for the death of leader Baitullah Mehsud in a US drone strike in 2009, and the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year.
Not surprisingly, news media in India played the Congressional report a little differently—not waiting for the Kamra attack to cover it (US media barely noted it had been released for several weeks already), and showing less concern about the nukes falling into “wrong hands” (as if the Pakistani state constitutes the “right hands”). The Press Trust of India highlighted such quotes from the report as: “Pakistan appears to be increasing its fissile production capability and improving its delivery vehicles in order to hedge against possible increases in India’s nuclear arsenal. Islamabad may also accelerate its current nuclear weapons efforts [and] could increase the number of circumstances under which it would be willing to use nuclear weapons.” (Pakistan Tribune, AAP, Aug. 17; Zee News, Aug. 15; PTI, Aug. 9)
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ongoing sectarian war fails to win much coverage outside Pakistan. On the same day as the Kamra attack, 20 Shi’ites were dragged off a bus and killed in Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The next day, a bomb attack targeted a bus carrying Shi’ite students in Karachi on Friday, killing one. (AP, Aug. 17; AFP, Aug. 16)