The threats to our nuclear assets and programme could take many forms. The first fear of the international communitythat militants could possibly take over the Government of Pakistan can be swept aside as neither do the militantshave the capacity or staying power to do so nor is the Pakistani nation ready to accept their dogmatic and extremist doctrines. The earlier commotion createdby the western powers that the militants were only 60 miles (Swat) away from the capital Islamabad was totally propagandist in nature and far from the truth. This propaganda however depicted Pakistan as close to becoming a failed state.Further if the militantswereto challenge the Armed Forces for establishing control in the country they are likely to be defeated very soundly. Without any international support they will be isolated and are not likely to survive even if we assume that they do somehow manage to gain control of the country. Most unlikely. Thenext directaction threatis that the terrorists would be able to attack and infiltrate into one or more storage sites overpower the guards and get away with a nuclear device or radioactive material. This appears to be rather far fetchedas the security measures at these sites are expected to be altogether at another level and the chances of a militant attack succeeding are quite low. Furthermore recent events would have necessitated additional security measures at all sites. Another contingencycould possibly be the spiriting awayof a nuclear warhead or radioactive material by the militants with the help ofsupposedly rogue elementsamongst the personnel in the nuclear proramme or responsible for its security. This is again quite unlikely as such an operation would necessitate the presence and connivance of a reasonable number of conspirators at a given time and at a given site. Such large groups would be hard to hide. However, the policy of continuous security clearances andquick rotations amongst the security and other personnel would obviatechances of such an action to a very great degree.Furthermore, counter intelligence measures should be able to pick up indicators of such plans well in time. The next hypothesis could beoperations by western forces (with the assistance of India and Israel)tophysically air drop troops at all our storage sites simultaneously to take over the custody andcontrol of all our installations, warheads and their delivery systems. Such an operation is factually quite far fetched. It would actually mean a declaration ofwar forcing Pakistan to react with full force.One is sure that such and other contingencies would have been considered and war-gamed already at the appropriate levels and suitable responsesprepared and rehearsed. However,such ingresses into our air and ground spaces would invariably result in forcing Pakistan to declaretotal war. And the conflict could very easily spiral out of control. Pushed into a corner Pakistan could possibly respond by resorting to the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) by promptly threatening western interests in South Asia and the Middle East thus spreading the war into unplanned and unforeseen dimensions. Thisthreat to expand the war zoneto such a large degree(Balance of Terror) may thus act as the biggest dis-incentive for the western powers to follow such a plan. Physical destruction of our assets through air attacks by UAVs, strategic bombers, cruise and other missiles can be ruled out too. Firstly our nuclear assets are likely to be well protected physically in deep, well constructed sites.Secondly even if the western arsenal manages to penetrate the protective layers of our sites then the risks of uncontrolled emission of radioactivity would be too high. This would be an unacceptable consequence for the entire international community.The west would then be held responsible for the spread of radioactivity andwidespread death and destruction in the region and beyond. What options does Pakisan have? First of all we must pick up the pieces and immediatelyrebuild the morale and spirit of our nation. The Government must declare (at the appropriate time) thatany attempts against our nuclear programmewould warrant a suitably matchingresponse.Our next steps should be to launch a well considered and dynamic diplomatic offensive with the sole aim to save our nuclear programme. We mustgarner international support for it. Most important we need a total national response more than ever. We need to find a leader who should rise above the rest to motivate, inspire and lead the nation out of this state of despondency and despair.Together we can and will prevail. BRIGADIER (R) IMRAN MALIK, Lahore, June 11.