US 'nightmare': Will Pakistan chaos let al Qaeda get nukes?
As it continues the fight against terrorist worldwide, the United States is watching cautiously as a vital ally teeters on the edge of anarchy.
"In the war on terror there is no country more strategically critical than Pakistan," ABC's Terry Moran said on Nightline Monday, "and tonight Pakistan is on the edge of a political abyss."
The nuclear state, which is battling encroaching al Qaeda fighters at its borders, has descended into chaos after President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency and suspended Pakistan's constitution. Taliban fighters and al Qaeda terrorists who had sought refuge in the mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan are moving into more populated regions of Pakistan and they appear emboldened by the chaos erupting from Musharraf's crackdown.
"Pakistani analysts are increasingly questioning General Musharraf’s contention that emergency rule was needed to help him fight terrorism," reports David Rohde in a New York Times analysis Tuesday. Across the country, policemen and intelligence agents have been diverted from hunting terrorists to arresting lawyers, who apparently are being assessed as the greater threat to the general’s rule."
The threat becomes even more dire when one considers what would happen to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal if the country becomes further destabilized. Estimates of Pakistan's weapons cache range from 24 to 48 nuclear warheads and some say there could be as many as 100 nukes in the country.
ABC News correspondent Jim Sciutto reports that officials believe there is a "very real" possibility that those weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
"The nightmare scenario for US officials," Sciutto says, "that a government collapse could put Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists."
The following video is from ABC's NIGHTLINE, broadcast on November 05, 2007