Pakistan chemical weapons inspections spark pre-emptive attack fears

United Nations chemical weapons inspectors are to visit a fertiliser plant in the southern city of Karachi this week to certify Pakistan is not producing chemical or biological weapons.

The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan says the visit by UN inspectors is “not a chemical weapon inspection as Pakistan is not a chemical weapon state.”

The United Nations maintains such visits are routine for the 150 signatories of the 1993 global Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) treaty, which commits its 151 signatory states including Pakistan to work towards the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

It represents the first time UN weapons inspectors have been to Pakistan, which is bound to open any of its facilities to periodic inspections by the UN team under the 1993 agreement.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is planning inspections of the Fauji Jordan Fertiliser plant in Karachi on April 30.

Pakistan's main stock index, the Karachi Stock Exchange, fell more than 3.5 per cent on Tuesday, after the news of the inspections broke. The benchmark KSE-100 index lost 105.17 points to close at 2862.32.

“The reports of the visit stunned investors as they foresaw Iraq-like treatment with Pakistan,” Aslam Munir, a broker at the Lahore Stock Exchange said.

“Already India is trying to make a case against Pakistan by accusing it of possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and asking the US to engage in a pre-emptive strike to disarm Islamabad,” Rehan Khokhar, a Karachi university lecturer said.

“The government is trying make people believe that our turn will not come. But inspections should open government's eyes to reality and it should take bold steps to avoid a Iraq-like fate,” he added.

Indian Foreign Minister, Yashwant Sinha, this month said the world realised that “India has a much better case to go for pre-emptive action against Pakistan than the US had in Iraq."

“Notwithstanding, Secretary of State Colin Powell has ruled out Indian suggestions that the government in Islamabad could be compared to President Saddam Hussain’s government in Iraq. Pakistan should not close its eyes to the truth,” chemical engineer, Sohail Ramzan, said. “The US does not want Muslims to be able to defend themselves.”

Dr Razwan Hameed says President Musharraf knows Pakistan faces some tough choices in times to come as was reflected in his address to tribal leaders in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) in April.

Gen Musharraf told an audience: “Our power, the atomic power, the missile power, we will not let it come to an end.

"The question arises: "what should be our attitude towards the world? We have two paths in front of us. One path is that of confrontation. The other path is of forebearence. In my view the path of forebearence is in Pakistan's interest," the President said.

“In the past the West always sided with India against Pakistan and in future the equation will not change,” Dr Razwan said.

“No one will come to Pakistan’s rescue like Iraq when the situation arose there and all would like to avail the opportunity to disarm Pakistan. They have to build a case against Pakistan like they have done with other countries and there will not be a single person who will be sympathetic to Pakistan,” he feared.

“The United States will not hesitate in neutralising Pakistan’s nuclear weapons if that became necessary,” Dr Razwan said, adding: “The US can secretly allow India to use pre-emptive strikes to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear facilities like it did in case of an Israeli attack on Iraq’s nuclear plant.”