The US may consider military strikes against Pakistan's nuclear assets if President Pervez Musharraf is removed from power, a Democratic candidate for the S
enate has said.
Dawn Tuesday quoted Barack Obama, a Democratic Party Senate contender, as saying in San Francisco that the US feared that Islamic extremists would take over Pakistan if Mushrraf were overthrown.
In such a situation, the US would have to consider "going in and taking the nuclear bombs out", he said.
The Senate hopeful's remarks are in line with Musharraf's own argument that it was important for Pakistan to have him at the helm of affairs as the country would otherwise be taken over by fundamentalists.
Ever since Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in May 1998 in a tit-for-tat retaliation against Indian tests, there have been international concerns about its nuclear weapons falling into the hands terrorist and Islamic fundamentalist groups.
Pakistan's close links with Afghanistan's then Taliban regime and the way various terrorist groups, including those active in Jammu and Kashmir, operated freely in that country had heightened these fears.
Though Islamabad under Musharraf dumped the Taliban and supported the US military offensive against Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the US, these failed to remove concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
The admission by A Q Khan, the scientist behind Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, that he had sold nuclear secrets to countries like Iran, Libya and North Korea had added to these fears.