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Shireen Mazari tipped to be Pakistan’s defence minister

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Shireen Mazari, who once advocated nuclear strikes on Indian population centres in the event of war, was on Tuesday tipped for the post of defence minister in the next government.

PTI insiders refused to comment on the appointment of Mazari, an Islamabad-based scholar and close aide of party chairman Imran Khan.Local media reported Mazari was being considered for the post as Khan finalises the members of his cabinet.

Mazari is known to be a hawk and observers fear her appointment as defence minister could push Pakistan further away from the West and India. Earlier reports had said she was being considered for the post of foreign minister.

Writing in the October 1999 issue of Defence Journal magazine, Mazari had said that in the event of hostilities with India, Pakistan should use its atomic weapons against urban centres. “Targeting should be primarily counter-value focusing on Indian urban and industrial centres...For Pakistan there cannot be a distinction between strategic and tactical in terms of nuclear weapons,” she wrote.

In nuclear warfare doctrine, “counter-value” targets refer to enemy assets that are of value but not actually a military threat, such as cities and civilian populations. The term “counter-force” is used to refer to military targets.

In an earlier article written for Defence Journal in April 1999, Mazari had been more specific about her counter-value targeting recommendations. “Included in this,” she wrote, “would be New Delhi, Bombay and all the nuclear installations that come within this range.”

She added, “India's nuclear installations are close to population centres,so damage can be compounded by attacking these facilities.”

Western diplomats have said they are "extremely disturbed" by the possible choice of Mazari. Large parts of her work centres around shaping a Pakistani nuclear doctrine that hinges around a “one-rung escalation ladder”— in plain language, to respond directly to a conventional weapons attack by India with the massive use of nuclear weapons against civilian targets.

Some observers argue Mazari may not be selected as a number of foreign governments have in the past expressed reservations about her competence.

As editor of an English daily, Mazari had angered Western governments by printing highly speculative and defamatory reports in the paper. One Western diplomat said she was “particularly vicious when it comes to the US and to India".

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