Islamabad: The Taliban have no plans to attack Pakistan`s nuclear arsenal, the Islamist organisation’s spokesman has declared.
The 17-hour siege of Karachi’s Mehran Naval Station by Pakistani Taliban militants renewed disturbing questions about the Pakistan military`s ability to defend sensitive installations, including its nuclear weapons.
While the Obama administration showed caution in its reaction to the Karachi siege, media outlets across the globe linked the attack to the disturbing questions over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
Taliban`s spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, however, dismissed those concerns as America`s "excuse" to pressure the Pakistan government into fighting the Taliban, who he portrayed as the country`s true protectors.
"Pakistan is the only Muslim nuclear-power state," The Wall Street Journal quoted Ehsan, as saying in a telephonic interview.
He added that the Taliban had no intention of changing that fact. The Taliban, after all, aim to take over Pakistan and its weapons, the paper said.
Ehsan then mocked Pakistan`s willingness to work with the United States, saying: "Isn`t it a shame for us to have the Islamic bomb and even then we are bowing down to the pressures of America?"
While the brutality of the Pakistan Taliban has alienated them from most Pakistanis, Ehsan`s anti-American sentiments are shared by many people there.
The long-questioned alliance with the US has come under increased scrutiny following the May 02 raid that killed the then al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. The US raid was seen by most in Pakistan as a violation of national sovereignty by an unfaithful ally, the paper said.
Ehsan`s remarks appeared tailored to appeal to that increasingly nationalist mainstream, where conspiracy theories flourish about American, Indian and Israeli plots to deprive Pakistan of its atomic arsenal, said the paper, adding that Pakistan`s nuclear capability is cherished here as the guarantor of safety from India`s far larger conventional military.
The Pakistan Taliban, an offshoot of the Afghan insurgent movement, have repeatedly tried to win public support by presenting themselves as a defender of Pakistan, though their attacks have killed thousands of Pakistanis.
Following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks by Pakistani militants and the resulting spike in tensions with archrival India, the Taliban offered to fight alongside Pakistan`s Army in the event of war, the paper said.
Still, it was impossible to judge the sincerity of Ehsan`s declaration regarding Pakistan`s nuclear arsenal, as even if the Pakistan Taliban have no designs on the arms, there are myriad Islamist groups in Pakistan, including al Qaeda, that are believed to have interest in acquiring nuclear weapons, it added.