MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The state of emergency declared by Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, is now in its second week. News analyst Daniel Schorr says Musharraf's motivation may not be solely political.
DANIEL SCHORR: Pakistani President Musharraf has been curiously vague about what it was that prompted him suddenly to declare an unlimited state of emergency 10 days ago. He has used phrases like the threat of anarchy, turmoil, and finding himself between a rock and a hard surface. Musharraf has been under attack by Islamic militants and the bombing of a crowd that was gathered to cheer the return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto must have been a shocker. But the magnitude of the martial law crackdown suggests a deeper fear.
Some analysts speculate that the fear is nuclear. That al-Qaida terrorists may somehow gain access to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and wage what some have called nuclear jihad, nuclear holy war. Pakistan is believed to have more than 15 nuclear bombs spread among locations around the country. They were developed under the leadership of nuclear engineer Abdul Qadeer Khan, a national hero.
Until recently, the Pakistani nuclear arsenal has been considered safe, under the control of a small elite group of high army officers. According to the Washington Post, the United States learned in 2001 that Pakistani scientists had shared nuclear secrets with members of al-Qaida. The Bush administration offered to help with security for the nuclear sites, but was turned down.
In the year 2005, General Musharraf said in The New York Times documentary interview, there is no doubt in my mind that the nuclear weapons can ever fall into the hands of extremists. The Pakistani government still insists today that the nuclear weapons are safe. But all these years, the fear of loose nukes in the hands of terrorists has haunted the dreams of officials working on nonproliferation. Officials have suspected that the likely source of a nuclear leak would be Pakistan. Those fears have come alive again.
This is Daniel Schorr.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.