This still image from a Pakistan military handout video shows a Hatf IX (NASR) missile being fired during a test at an undisclosed location in Pakistan
Hatf IX (NASR) missile is fired during a test at an undisclosed location in Pakistan. Reuters

Pakistan is spending about $2.5 billion annually to develop nuclear weapons, according to a report the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a Swiss-based NGO affiliated with the United Nations.

“Pakistan has been rapidly developing and expanding its nuclear arsenal, increasing its capacity to produce plutonium and testing and deploying a diverse array of nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles,” said the report entitled “Assuring Destruction Forever: Nuclear Modernization Around the World.”

Pakistan is believed to already possess between 90 and 110 nuclear warheads, while its principal rival, India, reportedly has between 80 and 100.

“Pakistan is moving from an arsenal based wholly on HEU [highly enriched uranium] to greater reliance on lighter and more compact plutonium-based weapons, which is made possible by a rapid expansion in plutonium-production capacity,” the report adds.

“Pakistan is also moving from aircraft-delivered nuclear bombs to nuclear-armed ballistic and cruise missiles and from liquid-fueled to solid-fueled medium-range missile. Pakistan also has a growing nuclear weapons research, development and production infrastructure.”

The report suggests that Pakistan's drive to accelerate its atomic arsenal is likely motivated by the United States seeking to deepen defense ties with India in order to counteract the growing military might of China.

“This may tie the future of Pakistan and India’s nuclear weapons to the emerging contest between the United States and China,” the report indicated.

The study estimates that Pakistan may currently boast a stockpile of 2,750 kg of weapon-grade HEU and may be producing about 150 kg of HEU per year.

Pakistan's intense focus on sophisticated military weapons has come at a great cost to the lives of millions of its impoverished people who cannot meet basic daily needs, the report commented.

In an editorial in India's Hindu newspaper, Praveen Swami noted that Pakistan's nuclear ambitions were an obsession of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto more than 40 years ago. Even while languishing in his jail cell prior to his execution in the late 1970s, the deposed PM wrote: “the Christian, Jewish and Hindu civilizations have this [nuclear] capability. The communist powers also possess it. Only the Islamic civilization is without it.”

Swami said he believes Pakistan suffers from deep “existential anxieties” and that the “existence of a strategic paranoia at the heart of the Pakistan military’s thinking -- a pathology that will, if unaddressed, have huge consequences for India.”

A report in Pakistan Kakhudahafiz, an alternative Pakistani newspaper, suggests Islamabad’s key ally, Saudi Arabia, has played an influential role in its path toward nuclear weaponry.

“There is speculation in the media and among think tanks in the West that Pakistan’s nuclear program was funded by Saudi Arabia in early 1970s,” the paper said.

“Saudi Arabia was a major supporter of Pakistan to perform the 1998 nuclear tests in response to India’s nuclear tests.”