Pakistan not bound by treaty for prohibition of nuclear weapons: FO

Published January 29, 2021
The nuclear weapons ban treaty had taken effect last Friday. — Reuters/File
The nuclear weapons ban treaty had taken effect last Friday. — Reuters/File

Pakistan does not consider itself bound by any of the obligations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the agreement does not constitute a part of conventional international law, the Foreign Office said on Friday.

The nuclear weapons ban treaty had taken effect last Friday, but the milestone was marred by the lack of signatures from the world's major nuclear powers. Despite the missing participants, the occasion was marked by praise from the United Nations and even Pope Francis.

In a statement, the FO said the treaty, which was adopted in July 2017, was negotiated "outside the established UN disarmament negotiating forums".

See: Pakistan 'most improved' country on US nuclear security index

"None of the nuclear-armed states, including Pakistan, took part in the negotiations of the treaty which failed to take on board the legitimate interests of all the stakeholders," the press release said, adding that many non-nuclear states had also refrained from becoming parties to the pact.

The FO noted that the United Nations General Assembly, at its first special session devoted to nuclear disarmament in 1978, had agreed by consensus that in the adoption of disarmament measures, "the right of each state to security should be kept in mind, and at each stage of the disarmament process the objective would be undiminished security for all states at the lowest possible level of armaments and military forces".

"Pakistan believes that this cardinal objective can only be achieved as a cooperative and universally agreed undertaking, through a consensus-based process involving all the relevant stakeholders, which results in equal and undiminished security for all states," the statement emphasised.

The treaty seeks to prohibit the use, development, production, testing, stationing, stockpiling and threat of nuclear weapons.

It is indispensable for any initiative on nuclear disarmament to take into account the "vital security considerations" of every state, the FO said.

Also read: Beware the nuclear con man

"Accordingly, Pakistan does not consider itself bound by any of the obligations enshrined in this treaty," it added. "Pakistan stresses that this treaty neither forms a part of nor contributes to the development of customary international law in any manner."

International norm

By late October, 50 countries had ratified the treaty — originally adopted by 122 countries in the UN General Assembly in 2017 — allowing it to take effect last Friday, or 90 days from the 50th signature.

Anti-nuclear activists still hope that the treaty will be more than symbolic, even without the buy-in of the world's greatest nuclear powers, by stigmatising nuclear programmes and challenging the mentality of the status quo.

There are a total of nine nuclear-armed nations, with the United States and Russia holding 90 per cent of such weapons. The others are China, France, Britain, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Most nuclear powers insist their arms exist merely as deterrents and those that have refused to sign this treaty say they remain committed to the earlier nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons was drafted through an initiative by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an NGO that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts.

"These weapons have always been illegitimate, but from a legal point of view, they are now illegal," said Jean-Marie Collin, spokesperson for ICAN France, welcoming the treaty.

"There is now an international norm that says that nuclear weapons are prohibited."

Japan, the only country to have ever been targeted by a nuclear weapon, has for the moment also refused to sign the treaty, saying its effectiveness is dubious without the participation of the world's nuclear powers.

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