ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Despite world criticism for its first nuclear test on Thursday, Pakistan exploded a second test on Saturday. And after all the breast-beating over matching India's bombs, officials here are asking, "Now what?"
Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, said yesterday that a nuclear warhead could be deployed on missiles "within days" if "we are forced to do something," but he also believes that nuclear capability can help guarantee peace.
Other officials say Pakistan's next move could be diplomatic. "If there is a conciliatory signal from India or the US offering itself as a conciliator, that may move the process ahead," said an official who requested anonymity. "Pakistan could also probe ideas for peace. But the exact strategy is still being devised."
Western diplomats said Pakistan now has the opportunity to move fast on some form of internationally accepted nuclear safeguard to prevent throwing Pakistan into global isolation.
For Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a groundswell of local opinion favoring the tests has helped avoid much criticism for his subsequent decision to impose a nationwide state of emergency, suspending individual legal rights.