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Pakistan's Fight, America's Fear
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier with a rocket launcher stands guard as local residents gather at close to the site of suicide bombing on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan Tuesday, May 5, 2009. A suicide car bomber killed four security forces and wounded passing schoolchildren Tuesday in Pakistan's volatile northwest, where the government is under pressure from Washington to crack down on militants. (AP)

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier with a rocket launcher stands guard as local residents gather close to the site of suicide bombing on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, on Tuesday, May 5, 2009. (AP)

The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan are sitting down with Barack Obama today at the White House. One with a country in desperate trouble. One with a country in desperate trouble — plus nuclear weapons.

Pakistan is a significant nuclear power, with maybe a hundred very real nuclear bombs. It also has a Taliban insurgency on the march only 60 miles from its capitol, a military of uncertain capacity and uncertain loyalty, and a hovering Al Qaeda that all assume would love to have its own nukes for terror.

This hour, On Point: Pakistan’s frightening instability, and Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

What do you see coming from Pakistan? If the country blows up, what about its bombs? Do you fear they will be everywhere? Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

 Joining us from Islamabad is Mosharraf Zaidi, columnist for Pakistan’s biggest English-language newspaper, The News, and for the Egyptian paper al-Shorouk. His work also appears in the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Joining us from Washington is David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times. He reported earlier this week on increasing U.S. concerns over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

In our studio we’re joined by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, former director of intelligence and counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy, where he tracked Al Qaeda’s efforts to obtain nuclear arms. Before that he spent 23 years at the CIA, where he was a senior officer sent to Pakistan to determine whether nuclear technology had been passed to Osama bin Laden. He is currently senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Mowatt-Larssen contributes to an online discussion, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Scenarios, U.S. Solutions,” at NYTimes.com.

And from Washington we’re joined by Stephen Cohen, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. His books include “Four Crises and a Peace Process: American Engagement in South Asia” and “The Idea of Pakistan.”

More links:

As Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari heads to the White House today, The New York Times reports this morning on his efforts to reassure Washington about his government’s stability and its campaign to repel the Taliban.

In an opinion piece in yesterday’s Washington Post titled “Pakistan’s Critical Hour,” Pakistani journalist (and past On Point guest) Ahmed Rashid writes: “Pakistan is on the brink of chaos, and Congress is in a critical position: U.S. lawmakers can hasten that fateful process, halt it or even help turn things around.”

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