ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: Pakistan
Share this

Updated: November 2016

This profile summarizes the major arms control agreements, regimes, initiatives, and practices that Pakistan subscribes to and those that it does not. It also describes the major weapons programs, policies, and holdings of Pakistan, as well as its proliferation record. This profile is one of a series focused on the arms control record and status of key states, all of which are available on the Arms Control Association’s Website at http://www.armscontrol.org.

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties




Biological Weapons Convention



Chemical Weapons Convention



Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

- - -

- - -

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

-Has developed nuclear weapons outside the treaty.

- - -

- - -

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

-Party to all five protocols. [1]



Outer Space Treaty



Ottawa Mine Ban Convention

-Banned exports of antipersonnel landmines, but retains and deploys them for defensive purposes.

- - -

- - -

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)*

- - -


CPPNM 2005 Amendment*

- - -

- - -

International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism

- - -

- - -

*Pakistan stated that it will not be bound by the provisions of Paragraph 2, Article 2, or by the dispute settlement procedures in Paragraph 2, Article 17

Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Australia Group: Not a member.

Missile Technology Control Regime: Not a member. Pakistani entities have been sanctioned by the United States for engaging in trade involving missiles and missile technologies controlled by the regime.

Nuclear Suppliers Group: Not a member. Pakistan is prohibited from importing key nuclear materials and technologies from the 46 group members because Islamabad does not subject its entire nuclear enterprise to safeguards administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Wassenaar Arrangement: Not a member.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol: No, Pakistan has not negotiated such an agreement.

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism: Participant.

Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation: Not a participant.

Proliferation Security Initiative: Not a participant. A senior U.S. official indicated to Arms Control Todaythat the initiative does not target transfers to and from Pakistan because it is a U.S. ally.[2]

UN Security Council Resolution 1540: Pakistan has filed the requested report on its activities to fulfill the resolution and volunteered to provide assistance to other states.

Major Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

Biological Weapons:

No government has alleged that Pakistan is violating its Biological Weapons Convention commitments. Islamabad has not filed a voluntary BWC confidence-building declaration.

Chemical Weapons:

Pakistan did not declare possessing any chemical weapons when it joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. Pakistan remains in good standing under the treaty.

Conventional Weapons Trade:

Pakistan is one of the top conventional arms purchasers in the developing world, concluding roughly $12.5 billion in arms sales between 2002 and 2009. [3] The Pentagon reports that from 2002-2010 the total U.S. military sale agreements with Pakistan were worth approximately $5.4 billion. [4] Those agreements included a purchase of 18 new F-16C/D combat aircraft from the United States (17 have been delivered as of January 2011). From 2007 to 2011 five percent of global arms transfers were to Pakistan, which has been rapidly increasing its imports of arms from China in particular.[5]

The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview:

Pakistan’s secret nuclear weapons program began in the early 1970s and was spurred on by India’s first nuclear test in 1974. The effort was aided by the theft of nuclear technology and know-how from the European company URENCO by Abdul Qadeer Khan, who became a leading figure in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons establishment. Khan is also believed to have received a nuclear weapon design from China. Although U.S. intelligence was aware of Pakistan’s illicit program, the United States continued to provide military assistance and foreign aid to Islamabad up until 1990 when President George H. W. Bush decided that he could no longer certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device. U.S. sanctions related to Pakistan’s nuclear program were dropped after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when the United States decided to pursue closer relations with Pakistan as part of the U.S. declared “war on terror.”

Pakistan is estimated to have an arsenal of about 130-140 warheads as of 2016. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists estimate that Pakistan's arsenal could grow to 220-250 warheads by 2025.

Delivery Systems


Ballistic Missiles: Pakistan has an active ballistic missile program and has flight-tested and deployed nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Its current deployed arsenal is composed predominantly of short-range missiles. Islamabad has also been developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles with very short ranges to be used on the battlefield against Indian conventional forces. Pakistan’s program has benefited from missile and technology transfers from China and North Korea.

  • Tactical - The Hatf IX ("vengeance") or Nasr missile is a solid fueled tactical ballistic missile developed by Pakistan. Its range is 60 km – it is considered a “battlefield weapon” - and its existence was revealed after a test in 2011. It is believed the missile was developed in response to India’s Cold Start Doctrine. The missile was tested recently on September 26, 2014 and was likely deployed the same year. [6] In October 2015, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhary acknowledged that the Nasr was developed as a response to India's Cold-Start Doctrine. 
  • Short Range Ballistic Missiles (range < 1000 km) - Hatf II, or Abdali-1,  is a short-range ballistic missile deployed by the Pakistan Army. It has a range of 180 km and was recently successfully tested on February 15, 2013. [7] The Hatf III, or Ghaznavi missile (named for the 11th century Muslim Turkic conqueror Mahmud of Ghazni) is a short-range ballistic missile with a range of 400 km. Hatf III has been tested successfully multiple times and was deployed in 2004. A recent test took place on May 8, 2014. [8] The Hatf IV, or Shaheen I (the Shaheen falcon is the subspecies of Peregrine falcon that lives on the Indian subcontinent) missile has a range of 750 km. It was first tested in 1999, entered into service in 2003. A variant of the Haft IV, or Shaheen IA is under development and has a range of about 900 kilometers. The Hatf V, or Ghauri missile, has a range of 1200 km and was deployed in 2003.
  • Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (range between 1000 and 3000 km) - Ghauri II is a medium range ballistic missile (a longer ranged variant of Ghauri I) with a range of 2,000 km. It was first tested in 1993 and is still in development. Hatf VI, or Shaheen II (a long ranged variant of Shaheen I) is a medium range ballistic missile with a range of 2,500 km that is under development. It was recently tested in November 2014.  [9]
  • Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (range between 3000 and 5500 km) - It is speculated that the Shaheen III, an intermediate range ballistic missile, is under development. It would have a range of 4500 km.

  • Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (range > 5500 km) - It is speculated that the Taimur missile, with a range of 7000 km, is an intercontinental ballistic missile under development.

Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles: Pakistan does not currently possess submarine launched ballistic missiles.

Cruise Missiles: 

Hatf VII, or Babur, missile is a land attack cruise missile in service with the Pakistani Army since 2005. It is nuclear-capable and has a reported range of 350- 750 km. Hatf VIII, or Ra'ad is an air-launched cruise missile developed by Pakistan and operational with the Pakistan Air force. It is nuclear-capable and has a range of 350 km. The Pakistani military claims that both systems are highly accurate and have “stealth capabilities.”


Following the launch of India’s INS Arihant in 2009, the Pakistan Navy announced its intention to build a nuclear submarine of its own, and in 2012 the Navy announced it would start construction. According to the Navy, the submarine is an ambitions project, will be designed and build indigenously, and will take between 6 and 8 years. [10] It is unclear if Pakistan is attempting to complete the nuclear triad.

Strategic Bombers

Pakistan’s available delivery vehicles include dual-use fighter aircraft, reportedly the U.S.-origin F-16A/B and French-orgin Mirage 2000 fighter jets. The planes were not transferred for the purpose of delivering nuclear bombs, but Pakistan is believed to have modified the them for that mission. Both were deployed in 1998.

Nuclear Doctrine

Pakistan has pledged no first use against non-nuclear weapons states, but has not ruled out the possible first use of nuclear weapons against India. Although Pakistani officials have claimed that nuclear weapons would be used only as a matter of last resort in such a conflict with India, Islamabad’s development of battlefield nuclear weapons to counter Indian conventional forces raises questions as to how central Pakistani nuclear weapons are in its security doctrine.

Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are believed to be stored in a disassembled state, with the fissile core kept separate from the warhead package.  This practice greatly increases the time required to deploy the weapons.

Pakistan has conducted two nuclear weapon tests, although one of those involved five simultaneous explosions. The first test occurred May 28, 1998, and the last took place May 30, 1998. In 1990, China is believed to have tested a Pakistani derivative of the nuclear design Beijing allegedly gave to Khan.

Due to severe political instability from extremist groups in Pakistan, there is unease regarding the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, materials, and facilities from both insurgent threats and insider collusion. Pakistan has shared critical information about its nuclear activities with the U.S., and both Pakistani and U.S. officials have repeatedly stated that Pakistani nuclear assets are secure from such threats.

Fissile Material

Specific estimates of Pakistan's stockpiles of fissile material are difficult, given uncertainty about Pakistan's uranium enrichment capacity. Pakistan is estimated to produce enough fissile material for approximately 10-21 nuclear weapons on an annual basis. [11] Pakistan is currently estimated to possess approximately 3 tons of highly enriched uranium and approximatly 200 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium. [12] By the end of 2014, Pakistan was operating four reactors that produce plutonium for weapons at Khushab. Khushab-I began operations in 1997/98, Khushab-II in 2009/10, Khushab-III in early 2013, and Kushab-IV in 2014.

Pakistan separates the plutonium from the the spent reactor fuel at the Rawalpinki New Labs facility, which has two reprocessing plants. Another reprocessing facility may be being constructed at Chashma as of 2015.  

Proliferation Record

Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan developed a black market network of suppliers to procure technology and know-how for Pakistan’s secret nuclear weapons program and then transformed that network into a supply chain for other states. Iran, Libya, and North Korea were all clients and other states might have been as well. After the interception of one of his shipments to Libya in October 2003, Khan appeared on Pakistani television in February 2004 and confessed to running the network, which transferred items ranging from centrifuges to bomb designs.

The Pakistani government denied any complicity in or knowledge of the network and confined Khan to house arrest. Although reportedly serving as an intermediary to foreign governments, the Pakistani government has not made Khan available to direct interviews by other states. General concern exists that remnants of the network might still be functioning.

Pakistan instituted new export control laws following the public exposure of Khan’s network, including the establishment of the Strategic Export Control Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Pakistan's control list now includes dual-use materials in an effort to meet the regulatory standards of export control regimes.

Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

Pakistan has concluded bilateral confidence-building measures with India. After their tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998, the two rivals volunteered to abstain from nuclear testing. They also have established a hotline to reduce the risk of accidental nuclear war and agreed to exchange advance notifications of ballistic missile flight tests.

Pakistan has blocked the start of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) at the 65-member Conference on Disarmament. Islamabad has insisted that an FMCT must cover existing stocks of fissile material due to concerns about India's current stockpile, and is preventing the body from reaching consensus on an agenda that would allow negotiations on the treaty to begin. In an interview with Arms Control Today, Pakistani permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva Zamir Akram indicated that the decision by the Nuclear Suppliers Group to remove the ban on sales of nuclear material to India was a major barrier to Pakistani support for an FMCT. He said that Pakistan would support negotiations if it, too, received a waiver from the NSG.



1. Pakistan has not agreed to an amendment that extends the convention’s application beyond just interstate conflicts to intrastate conflicts.

2. Wade Boese, “The Proliferation Security Initiative: An Interview with John Bolton,” Arms Control Today, December 2003, http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2003_12/PSI.

3. Ismail Dilawar, “India got a N-submarine from Russia, Pakistan to get its from China,” Pakistan Today 22 April 2012.

4. Institute for Science and International Security, Pakistan Doubling Rate of Making Nuclear Weapons: Time for Pakistan to Reverse Course, May 2011, http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/pakistan-doubling-rate-of-making-nuclear-weapons-time-for-pakistan-to-rever/.

5. International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Material Report 2011,http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr11.pdf.

6. Zia Mian, "Pakistan," Ensuring Destruction Forever, Reaching Critical Will, 2015 edition, http://www.princeton.edu/sgs/faculty-staff/zia-mian/Pakistan-2015-Zia.pdf

7. "Pak successfully tests nuclear-capable Hatf-II missile," The Hindu, February 15, 2013, www.thehindu.com/news/international/pak-successfully-tests-nuclearcapable-hatfii-missile/article4418360.ece

8."Pakistan test-fires nuclear-capable short-range missile 'Hatf III,'" The Times of India, May 8, 2014, timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-test-fires-nuclear-capable-short-range-missile-Hatf-III/articleshow/34838722.cms

9. "Pakistan test-fires nuclear capable ballistic missile," The Times of India, November 17, 2014, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-test-fires-nuclear-capable-ballistic-missile/articleshow/45174840.cms

10. Ansari, Usman (11 February 2012). "Pakistani Navy to Develop Nuclear-Powered Submarines: Reports". Defense News.

11. K. Alan Kronstadt, Major U.S. Arms Sales and Grants to Pakistan Since 2001, Congressional Research Service, January 4, 2011, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/pakarms.pdf.

12. Zia Mian, "Pakistan," Ensuring Destruction Forever, Reaching Critical Will, 2015 edition, http://www.princeton.edu/sgs/faculty-staff/zia-mian/Pakistan-2015-Zia.pdf

Posted: July 12, 2013