Experts point out basic weakness in Biological Weapons Convention | Pakistan Today

Experts point out basic weakness in Biological Weapons Convention

  • Dr Zafar Ali suggests more coordination for effective bio-ethics, safety and security standards
  • Inam-ul-Haq feels less press coverage, public attention on the danger of biological weapons

ISLAMABAD: Dr Zafar Ali, the director general of the Export Control Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has said that there is a need to enhance coordination at a national and international level for effective bio-ethics, bio-safety and bio-security standards and adoption of the Internal Compliance Programme.

“Pakistan has adopted stringent bio-safety and bio-security measures for safety and security of the biological agents, facilities, technologies and equipment,” he said while addressing a day-long seminar, organised by the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS), on biological weapons convention and its implementation challenges.

Dr Zafar Ali emphasised that there was a need to enhance coordination although the Strategic Export Control Division was functioning and the Strategic Export Control Act was effective since 2004. Kamran Akhtar, the director general for the disarmament at the ministry, believed in most credible and sustainable method of strengthening the convention through multilateral negotiations towards a legally binding protocol.

In his address as the chief guest, Ambassador Inam-ul-Haq said that the biological weapons do not receive the required press coverage and the public attention. Since nuclear safety and security measures have been discussed at the summit-level due to their destructive nature, this has not happened in the case of the biological weapons.

In his keynote address, Zamir Akram focused on elements of the convention and implementation challenges. He said that adding other implementation challenges, due to the rapid science and technology developments, countries need to meet more than once in five years to discuss measures to confront the dual use of the nature of the biological weapons.

He also raised the issue of implementing Article X of the BWC that emphasises on the international cooperation and assistance because of the tension that exists in the promotion of the biological technology transfers in the presence of the strategic trade controls to address proliferation risks. He highlighted Pakistan’s stance in support of the implementation of all the articles of the BWC in a balanced, nondiscriminatory and comprehensive manner.

In his welcome address, CISS Executive Director Ali Sarwar Naqvi said that use of the biological weapons in the past has resulted in chilling effects on the human population and led the international community to reach consensus to ban this entire class of weapons of mass destruction.

Zawar H Abidi, a member of the group of a UN committee, spoke on the the UNSC resolution 1540 and Pakistan. He stated that in line with increasing threat of terrorism, the risk posed by various microorganisms as biological weapons need regular evaluation. He also agreed with earlier speakers regarding implementation challenges and also referred to the easy access to biological weapon development and production by terrorists due to the recent advancements in science and biotechnology.

Speaking on the emerging infectious diseases, dioterrorism as a threat to national security, visiting CISS fellow Dr Javed Khurshid emphasised on the implementation of the bio-technology weapons convention through strengthening emergency management systems against bio-terror viruses and diseases such as HIV.

Brig Muhammad Afzal Khan spoke on the Chem-bio threat and response, argued that through control measures and control regime, the threat perception would be increasingly crystallized. He also pointed out to the challenges of handling the bio-and Chem-threats, having diverse and unpredictable manifestations.

In this context, he argued that it was required of all the stakeholders to develop a well-thought out and integrated approach in dealing with the complex nature of the threats. He said that technical teams need to be equipped with techniques and training of dealing with the severity of the threats of bio and chemical weapons in the emergency time for providing a suitable and timely response.

All the speakers pointed out the basic weakness of the biological convention lies in the absence of international monitoring, inspections and verification mechanisms. Besides students, the seminar was attended by the academics and professionals. Many questions were asked from the panelists and were answered in a comprehensive way.

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