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N-plan to stay: Musharraf

February 22, 2004

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RAWALPINDI, Feb 21: President Gen Pervez Musharraf reiterated on Saturday that Pakistan's nuclear programme was here to stay and, being a vital national security interest, will never be compromised. He said that far from any misplaced notion of a rollback , "we will continue to develop our capability in line with our minimum deterrence needs."

The president was speaking at an impressive ceremony held to hand over the indigenously produced Hatf-III (Ghaznavi) Ballistic Missile System to the Army Strategic Force Command.

The solid fuel Ghaznavi Ballistic Missile System, which has a range of 290km, was successfully test-fired in 2002 and 2003 with excellent results.

It now forms an integral component of Pakistan's operational deterrence system, which also includes the Shaheen series and Ghauri intermediate-range missiles, besides the PAF.

The ceremony was attended by Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, services chiefs and senior military officers and scientists.

The president said that his actions spoke louder than words and in the last four years, large number of missile tests of different systems as well as handing over of these systems to the respective Strategic Missile Groups amply demonstrated his government's resolve to consolidate and strengthen Pakistan's nuclear deterrence.

He urged the nation to "come out of the mindset of the eighties" when the nuclear programme was in its infancy and could be threatened with rollback.

"Today, Pakistan, by the Grace of Allah, is an acknowledged and established nuclear power," the president said.

The president paid glowing tributes to the scientists, engineers and technicians who had made the nation proud by their dedicated and professional hard work.

"By their singular achievements they had forged a strong, indigenous capability, which had resulted in substantial savings," he said.

He laid emphasis on the need to further enhance security by drawing lessons from the events of past proliferation.-APP