Nukes plus Al Qaeda = Pakistan, say experts

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Washington, Feb.2 : What do you get when you combine a nuclear Muslim state, an al-Qaeda stronghold and a key U.S. ally? The scary answer is Pakistan and this country's future is shakier than ever.

According to former Central Intelligence Agency officer Bruce Riedel, "Every one of the nightmares of the 21st century - nuclear war, nuclear proliferation, war and peace, terrorism, al-Qaeda, drug smuggling, dictatorship, democracy - all of these issues collide in Pakistan today."

So grave is the situation prevailing in Pakistan that it has prompted Riedel to ask another question - At what point will the Pakistani army decide that General Musharraf has become more of a liability than an asset?

According to Pramit Pal Choudhary, former foreign editor of the Hindustan Times, "Every single government has either fallen, been deposed or knocked down by the army or by a president who's been backed by the army."

Choudary suggests Musharraf share his power to possibly regain popular support.

He sees three leaders, with Musharraf as president: an official from Bhutto's people's party as prime minister and a significant role for the new head of Pakistan's military, General Ashfaq Kiyan.

Success, however, he says is anything but guaranteed.

Riedel said, "If the elections are rigged or if the elections are postponed, we're likely to see a continuing deterioration and a downward spiral in Pakistani stability. That only benefits the Islamist extremists like the Taliban, al-Qaeda and a whole nexus of Pakistani extremist groups."

Musharraf's increasingly shaky hold on power, combined with continued gains by the Taliban, has raised concerns of a coup or even civil war in Pakistan.

In such a scenario, the Musharraf regime, he says would vie for power with Bhutto's secular supporters and radical Islamists - with the country's nuclear arsenal hanging in the balance.

ANI

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