Do the Math: Nukes + Al Qaeda = Pakistan

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WASHINGTON - Today's terror quiz: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.

For more than 60 years, political unrest and assassinations have ruled Pakistan but that history can't compare to the chaos that now engulfs the world's second-largest Muslim nation.

A Dangerous Nation

Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world.

"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," former CIA officer and presidential adviser Bruce Riedel said.

In recent months, President Pervez Musharraf sparked national protests after he fired the country's chief justice, suspended the constitution and declared a state of emergency.

The U.S. then pushed Musharraf to step down as head of Pakistan's army and consider sharing power with former rival, Benazir Bhutto. But that all changed with her assassination.

Accusations of government involvement in Bhutto's murder have enraged Pakistanis - and left Musharraf's military dictatorship on life support.

"The question really becomes: At what point will the Pakistani army decide that General Musharraf has become more of a liability than an asset?" Reidel asked.

Pakistan's powerful army traditionally holds the final say in the country's politics.

"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," South Asia expert Pramit Choudary said.

The Solution? Power-Sharing

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, is anything but guaranteed.

Pakistan, so far, in 60 years of independence has never been able to have two successive, democratically elected governments one after the other.

Elections are scheduled for next month and experts warn any government meddling would be disastrous.

Reidel 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."

Islamist infiltration has been a longstanding problem for Musharraf.

"He knows that there are people within the military, within the intelligence services, who are aligned openly with his enemies," CBN News consultant Daveed Gartenstein-Ross said.

Musharraf's increasingly shaky hold on power, combined with continued gains by the Taliban, have raised concerns of a coup or even civil war in Pakistan. In such a scenario, the Musharraf regime would vie for power with Bhutto's secular supporters and radical Islamists - with the country's nuclear arsenal hanging in the balance.

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Erick Stakelbeck

Erick Stakelbeck

CBN News Terror Analyst

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