Mechanics of the National Control in Pakistan

By R.M.S. Azam  


The Joint Services Headquarters formally proposed the establishment of the National Command Authority in April 1999. In the same month, the Chief of Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf, announced that the national command system would be in place within one month. He said four broad components of the system were:

(i) the creation of a national command authority;

(ii) developmental control by a governing body;

(iii) strategic force command; and

(iv) secretariat for all these three commands.

However, in point of fact this new military command and control structure was not implemented within the stipulated time, due primarily to the Kargil Conflict of April-July 1999 that broke out between Pakistan and India and the souring of relations between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Chief of the Army Staff, culminating in the military coup of 12 October 1999. Its formation was, therefore, approved only after October 1999.

The announcement of the establishment of the National Command Authority (NCA) finally came through the National Security Council (NSC) on 2 February 2000. This came exactly 20 months after Pakistan detonated its first nuclear devices in the Ras Koh Hills and Kharan Desert in Chagai, Balochistan on 28 and 30 May 1998.

The National Command Authority (NCA) is Pakistan’s first formal strategic nuclear command and control organization. It comprises of the following persons:-

(i) Head of State (President);
(ii) Head of Government (Prime Minister);
(iii) Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee;
(iv) Chief of the Army Staff;
(v) Chief of the Air Staff;
(vi) Chief of the Naval Staff;
(vii) Federal Minister of Defense;
(viii) Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs;
(ix) Federal Minister of the Interior;
(x) Federal Minister of Finance & Economic Affairs;

The NCA is entrusted with the following tasks:

(i) to formulate doctrine and policy regarding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and strategic assets;

(ii) to exercise development and employment overall strategic nuclear forces and strategic organizations;

(iii) to safeguard, protect and secure Pakistan’s nuclear assets;

(iv) to supervise, command and control Pakistan’s nuclear assets;

(v) to minimize and prevent any accidental or unauthorized launch of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons;

(vi) to establish a foolproof security and safety web around Pakistan’s nuclear assets;

(vii) to be the sole and exclusive entity to authorize the use of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the defense of Pakistan;

(viii) to continuously endeavor  to improve the safety, protection and security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets;

(ix) to continuously endeavor to improve the command and control system of Pakistan’s nuclear assets;

(x) to oversee the organization, management and regulation of Pakistan’s nuclear assets;

(xi) to make recommendations to the Government regarding any kind of matter that may concern Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

The NCA is currently trifurcated into the following divisions:

(i) the Strategic Plans Division, which also functions as its Secretariat;

(ii) the Development Control Committee; and

(iii) the Employment Control Committee;

· The Strategic Plans Division (SPD) is a military organization under the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) based at Chaklala Air Base in Rawalpindi. It was originally established in the Joint Services Headquarters (JSH) under the CJCSC. The SPD functions as the Secretariat for the NCA and perform functions relating to planning, coordination, and establishment of a reliable and effective C4I2 network.

The SPD consists of the following:-

(i) either senior-ranking military officer (Chairman), in all probability, either a Lieutenant-General, Air Marshal or Rear Admiral (it is currently led by Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai); and

(ii) other high-ranking military officers from the three services.

· The Development Control Committee (DCC) controls the development of strategic assets, including, nuclear warheads, delivery systems and strategic installations.

The DCC consists of the following:-

(i) the Head of the Government (Chairman);
(ii) the CJCSC (Deputy Chairman);
(iii) the COAS;
(iv) the CAS;
(v) the CNS;
(vi) the DG-SPD; and
(vii) the representatives of the strategic organizations and the scientific community.

There may be other ad-hoc members whose identity is kept secret. It may be that the Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, the Director-General, National Development Complex and the Director-General, Kahuta Research Laboratories may also be ex-officio members. These ad-hoc members would have an advisory role only.

· The Employment Control Committee (ECC) is the primary committee, which the Head of Government, the Commander-in-Chief, will consult before making a decision to authorize the use (employment) of nuclear weapons.

The ECC consists of the following:-

(i) Head of the Government (Chairman);
(ii) Minister of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Chairman);
(iii) Minister of Defense;
(iv) Minister of the Interior;
(v) Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC);
(vi) Chief of the Army Staff (COAS);
(vii) Chief of the Air Staff (CAS);
(viii) Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS);
(ix) Director-General of Strategic Plans Division (DG-SPD) (Secretary); and
(x) Technical advisers and others, as required by the Chairman.

The final decision making power rests with the Head of Government. In other words, in case there is no Prime Minister, then whosoever is the de facto Chief Executive of Pakistan will have the final decision-making power.

Article was first posted on PakDef Forum in 2004.