Asif Ali Zardari's promise of a "no-first use" of nuclear weapons against India has taken the establishment in Islamabad by surprise, with analysts and politicians saying the "un-informed" Pakistan President may have made the bold remarks "off-the-cuff".
Zardari stunned the Pakistani political and military establishment on Saturday when he announced that Islamabad would "most definitely" not be the first to use atomic weapons in a possible conflict, addressing the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit via video-conference in New Delhi.
However, strategic experts and politicians in Pakistan told PTI that Zardari will face difficulties in delivering on his promise as many thorny issues remain unresolved between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Lt Gen (retired) Kamal Matinuddin, a leading defence analyst and close watcher of the country's nuclear programme, said Zardari's remarks appeared to have been made in an "off the cuff" manner and he was apparently "not fully informed or completely aware of" Pakistan's stated nuclear doctrine.
The opposition PML-N said the PPP-led government appeared to be indulging in "public relations" exercises instead of focussing on resolving "real issues" like the dragging Kashmir issue.
Matinuddin, who authored the book "Nuclearisation of South Asia" that charts Pakistan's nuclear programme, admitted that Zardari's remarks marked a significant shift from the country's established nuclear doctrine.
Matinuddin said Pakistan had retained the option in view of its "open borders" and status as a smaller nuclear power.
"Deterrence works only when the enemy knows Pakistan will use its nuclear weapons," he told PTI.
Zardari's comments, he pointed out, would "reduce the effect of deterrence".