Pakistan Feels the Heat

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KARACHI: Pakistan’s government started Monday concerned primarily with stopping a wave of Christian-Muslim violence and with corruption charges against former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. By day’s end, they were facing an overwhelming public clamor for a Pakistani nuclear explosion. “Yesterday’s Indian nuclear tests caught Pakistan totally off guard,” says TIME reporter Ghulam Hasnain. “The government is in a tight corner because politicians of every political and religious affiliation are now demanding that Pakistan conduct its own test.”

Despite strong pressure from Washington to show restraint, Pakistan’s leaders are keeping the option open. Hasnain believes Pakistan might be dissuaded from proceeding if the U.S. and other countries apply sanctions to India, but TIME correspondent Doug Waller reports that the region’s delicate power balance has traditionally made the U.S. reluctant to sanction either country. Whatever card Washington plays, the stakes at the South Asian poker table are now higher than ever.