Islamabad: Pakistan's finance minister Thursday said that his country will never roll back its nuclear programme despite financial hardship and threat of mounting external debt.
Ishaq Dar was briefing the Senate, the upper house of parliament, on the country's economy.
The Express Tribune reported that Dar dismissed reports about Pakistan bartering away its nuclear arsenal.
"We did not start this (nuclear) programme to roll it back. This is a programme of our security, and it is a national responsibility to protect it. All political parties of Pakistan share the ownership of our nuclear programme," he said.
"Even if our debts swell to USD 100 billion or USD 100 trillion, we will not roll back our nuclear programme," he said.
He referred to a 2008 article in Wall Street Journal headlined 'Let's Buy Pakistan's Nukes' in which the author asked Western donors to agree on a USD 100 billion economic package in exchange for eliminating Pakistan's nuclear stockpile, currently said to be the world's fastest growing.
He mentioned another article which suggested the ever-ballooning debt may lead Pakistan to compromise on its national security assets.
Dar's forceful statement came after US Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Pakistan at this week's strategic dialogue in Washington to reduce its nuclear arsenal.
Dar did not mention Kerry's statement but Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani asked Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to brief the house on the issue.
Aziz had urged the US not to contribute to "strategic imbalance in South Asia" by aiding India.