Islamabad: President Pervez Musharraf firmed up his grip on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal by issuing an ordinance that makes him chief of the National Command Authority, which is responsible for development and control of atomic weapons.
The ordinance, issued late on Thursday night, makes a not-so-subtle change to the original character of the NCA, which was originally set up in February 2000 to address concerns about the safety of the nuclear arsenal. Under the original set-up, the chief of the NCA was the "head of the government" or the prime minister. Now the ordinance issued by Musharraf names the president as the chairman of the NCA and the prime minister as the deputy chairman.
The order said, "It is necessary and expedient to establish an authority for complete command and control over research, development, production and use of nuclear and space technologies".
It also provides for the "safety and security of all personnel, facilities, information, installations or organisations and other activities or matters connected" to nuclear and space technologies.
Besides the president and the prime minister, the other members of the NCA will be the ministers for foreign affairs, finance, defence and interior, the three service chiefs, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee and the director general of the Strategic Plans Division.
The ordinance comes two days ahead of the proposed lifting of the national emergency imposed by Musharraf and appears to be aimed at addressing fresh international concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in the wake of the political uncertainty gripping the country.
Earlier in the day, Musharraf finalised an order to revoke the emergency and to amend the constitution to protect decisions made by him since the measure was imposed on November 3.