When Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency late Saturday night over White House objections, he cited his need to combat growing extremism in Pakistan. And indeed, pro-Taliban militants, Islamist sympathizers, and straight-up terrorists are on the march in a country with a violent history of coups, political instability, and... nuclear weapons.
Pakistani officials such as Ambassador to the U.S. Mahmud Ali Durrani, whom we interviewed about the 2007 Failed States Index (Pakistan ranks 12th), will tell you that the nukes are safely under lock and key. Nothing to worry about! A.Q. Khan is under control!
But insiders with deep experience at the top levels of the U.S. foreign-policy apparatus are worried. In FP's September/October issue, we published our third Terrorism Index in partnership with the Center for American Progress. Nearly three quarters of the more than 100 U.S. foreign-policy experts we surveyed said that Pakistan is the country most likely to transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists:
Before he declared martial law, Musharraf's approval rating had cratered at 21 percent. So, let's see here... We've got rising militancy and a war in neighboring Afghanistan, a hugely unpopular president, multiple insurgencies, and a nuclear state with a history of nuclear proliferation. Some old Iran hands are saying the present situation in Pakistan even reminds them of the last days of the Shah. This could get much, much worse before it gets better.