Alex Wagner and Seth Brugger
Pakistan's Ministry of Commerce issued a "clarification" on July 26 retracting a so-called public notice published two days earlier that had detailed guidelines for exporting nuclear-related items. The notice, published in local newspapers, listed procedures for how to obtain a "no objection certificate" from the Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), which is necessary to export certain nuclear items. The public notice also included an application form for the certificate and listed the nuclear materials and equipment that require such a certificate.
The clarification said that procedures for exporting nuclear-related materials and equipment were still "under consideration" and would be made public in "due course," according to an August 4 Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement. A Ministry of Commerce press release further explained that the procedures were being drawn up to "inform the public that nuclear substances and related equipment cannot be exported from Pakistan, with the exception of those allowed by the PAEC."
The Foreign Ministry statement also highlighted Pakistan's "impeccable" export control record. It maintained that Pakistan's export control procedures are "vigorously applied" and that "unauthorized transfer of sensitive materials from Pakistan does not arise." It also stressed that "Pakistan is unilaterally and unequivocally committed not to export any sensitive materials, equipment and technologies to any other country." In addition, the ministry said that Pakistan is "considering further procedures to strengthen its export controls" with the United States. The last U.S.-Pakistani meeting that discussed this subject was held in June. (See ACT, July/August 2000.)
Pakistani nuclear export policy is governed by three Statutory Regulatory Orders (SRO) issued in July 1998, February 1999, and August 1999. The July 1998 SRO completely prohibits the export of fissionable material. The other two SROs require the PAEC to issue a "no objection certificate" for the export of nuclear "substances," radioactive material, or nuclear energy-related equipment, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Other "substances" listed in a 1984 ordinance also require such a certificate. Since the nuclear materials listed in the public notice reportedly included plutonium, enriched uranium, and heavy water—all materials used in nuclear weapons manufacturing—the public notice seems to have conflicted with the July 1998 SRO.
The U.S. State Department downplayed the public notice in an August 4 statement saying the notice appeared only to be "regulations" that are "drawn from international control lists." The statement added that the regulations do not appear to authorize or solicit the sale of nuclear materials and that Pakistan has been engaged in talks with the United States and other countries regarding its export controls. The statement welcomed the regulations "as an important further step in that direction."