As Pakistan today marked the anniversary of the atomic blasts that made it a nuclear power, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said his country qualifies for international civil nuclear cooperation and should be granted access to technology without discrimination.
In a special message commemorating the day when Pakistan carried out a series of nuclear tests in 1998, Gilani said: "Pakistan qualifies for participation in civil nuclear cooperation at the international level."
"We urge all relevant forums to give Pakistan access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses in a non-discriminatory manner."
Gilani noted that civil nuclear power generation is an "essential part" of Pakistan's energy security strategy to help meet the country's energy needs for social and economic development.
"We have more than 35 years experience of operating nuclear power plants," he said.
Describing the atomic blasts of May 28, 1998 as an event that marked "Pakistan's entry into the privileged nuclear club", he said the "precise objective" of the tests was to "establish balance of power in the region and safeguard the country's sovereignty and integrity".
Then Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif had ordered the nuclear tests in the wake of similar blasts by India despite tremendous pressure from the world community.
Pakistan's nuclear programme subsequently came under a cloud after scientist A Q Khan admitted to running a clandestine proliferation ring that supplied atomic secrets and know-how to countries like Libya and North Korea.
The US and other Western countries have repeatedly expressed concerns about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear assets.
In his message, Gilani said Pakistan's nuclear programme "is mainly for defensive and peaceful purposes".
The country's democratic government is "fully committed to ensuring nuclear security", he added.
Pakistan, as a nuclear weapon state, attaches highest importance to the security of nuclear materials and facilities.
"For this purpose, we have put in place multi-layered mechanisms and processes under the National Control and Command Authority. We have done so, first and foremost, in our own national interest and to protect our strategic assets," Gilani said.
Gilani also paid tribute to late former premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who launched Pakistan's nuclear programme "as deterrence and to harness this technology to accelerate the pace of economic development".
Bhutto was aware of the challenges to Pakistan's security and future energy needs and built a team of professionals and mobilised the required economic resources to attain the objective, he said.