“It will take all of us working together – government officials, and diplomats, academic experts, and scientists, activists, and organizers – to come up with new and innovative approaches to strengthen transparency and predictability, reduce risk, and forge the next generation of arms control agreements.”
– Wendy Sherman
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
June 2, 2022
Pakistan Advances Export Controls

Gabrielle Kohlmeier and Miles A. Pomper


Pakistan’s Senate Sept. 18 approved export control legislation intended to strengthen current measures to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf shortly.

Movement on the export control bill comes as the United States eased controls on dual-use space- and nuclear-related exports to Pakistan’s nuclear rival, India.

The bill is an effort by Pakistan to assuage concerns after Abdul Qadeer Khan revealed in February that he had passed nuclear technology to Iran and Libya, among others. (See ACT, March 2004.) Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, was pardoned by Musharraf. The legislation as passed will not apply retroactively, even though Pakistani officials had claimed that the bill could affect that pardon. (See ACT, September 2004.)

Under the Pakistani legislation, those convicted of proliferating materials relating to nuclear and biological weapons technology and missile delivery systems will face up to 14 years in prison and up to $85,000 in fines. Federal agencies will be empowered to hold any material delineated by the bill meant for export and will also have the power to inspect shipments and confiscate records of people involved in the export. The bill also stipulates that Islamabad may investigate government officials for any alleged violations and arrest perpetrators.

In passing the bill, Pakistan’s lower house, the National Assembly, rejected amendments put forth by members of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the main opposition party. Some members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz voiced concerns that the bill could limit Pakistan’s nuclear program, but MMA objections were more concerned about procedural changes undertaken to get the legislation approved.

With Musharraf’s supporters in control of the Senate, the bill also passed that house, but not without further complaints from opponents. Members of opposition parties accused the government of rushing the bill through both houses so that it would be passed into law in time for Musharraf’s meetings with President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the meeting of the UN General Assembly. MMA representative Ghafoor Ahmed claimed that, even with the passage of this legislation, the United States will not be satisfied with Pakistan’s nuclear policies.

Members of the government, however, maintained steadfast support for the bill. Pakistan’s minister for foreign affairs, Khusro Bakhtiar, emphasized that the legislation represents an important move to strengthen regulations and controls on exports, re-exports, transshipments, and transit of items of proliferation concern. “This law provides a framework to deal with sensitive technologies and proliferation,” he said.

With the passage of this bill, Pakistan asserted it is in compliance with its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and is acting as a responsible nuclear power. Resolution 1540, passed earlier this year, directs all states to implement domestic legislation that stiffens controls over sensitive materials and technologies in an effort to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. (See ACT, May 2004.)

The United States still has not, however, been allowed access to Khan. In an interview with The New York Times on Sept. 20, Musharraf contended that the United States has never asked for access to Khan but that, if they did, they would be rebuffed. “We wouldn’t let them [have access to Khan],” Musharraf asserted. “That would show a lack of trust in our agencies.” In his meeting with Musharraf two days later, Bush made no effort to persuade Musharraf on that issue.

U.S., India Ease Licensing Rules

Meanwhile, the United States and India announced an easing of dual-use exports to India’s nuclear and space facilities, the first concrete step in implementing a new “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership” initiative between New Delhi and Washington launched in January. The change, the Department of Commerce estimated, could cut by as much as one-fourth the number of licenses U.S. firms need to obtain for exporting dual-use goods to India.

A Sept. 20 Commerce Department press release said that the move came as part of a package of measures, including “implementation of measures to address proliferation concerns.” No details of more nonproliferation measures were released.

Under the new rules, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India’s civilian space program, will be removed from the Commerce Department entity list. That step will allow many items with both civilian and military uses to be exported from the United States to India without a license. The United States will also eliminate the need for many of ISRO’s subsidiaries to obtain licenses for importing “low-level” U.S. dual-use goods.

The announcement also expanded the scope of civilian nuclear cooperation between the United States and India. U.S. officials will now be told to presume that certain Indian facilities should be eligible to import dual-use U.S. nuclear-related equipment not restricted by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The NSG is an informal group of 44 states that seek to control nuclear exports.

The rule would limit these exports to facilities that are subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. India has safeguarded nuclear facilities in Rajasthan and Tarapur, each boasting two reactors. IAEA safeguards are intended to prevent civilian nuclear material from being used for military purposes.

Moreover, exports would only be permitted to the part of a nuclear power plant used for power generation, such as turbines, controllers, or power distribution, not to the nuclear reactor itself.

The changes in South Asia come as India and Pakistan have continued a series of nuclear confidence-building talks. Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri met with his Indian counterpart, Natwar Singh, Sept. 5-6 for the highest-level official talks to date. The foreign ministers agreed on 13 proposals, including further meetings between experts of each country to draft an agreement providing for advance notification of missile tests. (See ACT, September 2004.)