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National Command Authority: A Look at the Body that Oversees Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons

The National Command Authority is Pakistan’s principal decision making body on nuclear issues. Pakistan has invoked its nuclear capabilities in the past as well when tensions between the two countries escalated.

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Updated:February 28, 2019, 11:50 AM IST
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National Command Authority: A Look at the Body that Oversees Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons
File photo of an IAF's Mirage 2000 fighter jet that hit the terror camps on Tuesday (Image: AFP)
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New Delhi: Hours after the Indian Air Force struck across the Line of Control to destroy terrorist camps, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the head of Pakistan military’s media wing, issued a veiled threat to India and invoked Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA), the body which oversees Islamabad’s nuclear weapons programme.

"I said that we will surprise you. Wait for that surprise. I said that our response will be different. The response will come differently,” Ghafoor said at a press conference.

“There is a joint session of parliament tomorrow and then the prime minister has summoned a meeting of the National Command Authority. I hope you know what the NCA means and what it constitutes,” Ghafoor added.

NCA is Pakistan’s principal decision making body on nuclear issues. Pakistan has invoked its nuclear capabilities in the past as well when tensions between the two countries escalated.

The NCA was set up in 2000 following the overthrow of the civilian government and approval from Pakistan’s National Security Council and its then Chief Executive General Parvez Musharraf.

“The NCA will be responsible for policy formulation and will exercise employment and development control over all strategic nuclear forces and strategic organizations. It will comprise Employment Control Committee and Development Control Committee as well as Strategic Plans Division which will act as secretariat,” Pakistani newspaper Dawn had reported at the time.

The NCA consists of an Employment Control Committee and a Development Control Committee, as well as the Strategic Plans Division which acts as its Secretariat. According to archived news reports:

The Employment Control Committee is chaired by the head of the Government (presently Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan) and includes the Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Chaiman) Defence, Interior, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), Services Chiefs, Director-General of Strategic Plans Division (Secretary) technical advisers and others, as required by the Chairman.

The Development Control Committee is also chaired by the head of Government and includes CJCSC (Deputy Chairman), Services Chiefs, Director-General of Strategic Plans Division and representatives of the strategic organizations and, the scientific community. This Committee controls the development of strategic assets.

The Strategic Plans Division, headed by a senior army officer, was established in the Joint Services Headquarters under the CJCSC to act as the Secretariat for the NCA and perform functions relating to planning, coordination, and establishment of a reliable command, control, communication, computers and intelligence network.


The NCA oversees the strategic commands of the Pakistani army, air force and Navy.

At the press conference, Ghafoor also rejected claims in Indian media about heavy casualties in the aftermath of the IAF air strike. He also said Pakistani authorities were not surprised by IAF presence and were fully prepared to engage.
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