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NightWatch 20100128


For the Night of 28 January 2010

South Korea-North Korea: The South's Unification Ministry spokesman said South Korea will seek "calm and stable" dialogue with North Korea during talks slated for 1 February, despite North Korea's recent firing of artillery near the Northern Limit Line off the west coast, Yonhap reported 27 January. The talks are scheduled to take place in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

North Korea-US: North Korea proposed to the United Nations Command in South Korea that joint work be resumed to recover the remains of American servicemen still missing from the Korean War, according to the Associated Press on 28 January. The proposal was presented during a working-level contact at Panmunjom.

The North's leadership has gone to considerable effort this week to demonstrate to the South and to the US that the coastal gunnery exercise off the west coast does not represent an escalation of tension or a change in the more cooperative policy.

Another American Trespasser. North Korea announced today it has detained a second American man for trespassing on its border with China, Reuters and the Associated Press reported today. The Korean Central News Agency reported the man was detained on 26 January and his case is now under investigation. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it did not know of the case. There are no updates to the other American in detention also for trespassing in December.

Pakistan: Update. Both the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court backed away from confrontation over execution of the Court's ruling last July that the National Reconciliation Ordinance is unconstitutional. This is the Musharraf executive order that enabled the late Benazir Bhutto and her husband President Zardari and other politicians to hold government office, despite their disqualification under the constitution.

Prime Minister Gilani promised to execute the order and thanks the Chief Justice for reinforcing the sovereignty of the parliament in his written ruling. Gilani asserted his belief that the President is immune from prosecution for crimes while he holds office under Article 248 of the Constitution and asked for a Supreme Court interpretation of that Article, according to the Daily Times on 29 January.

Chief Justice Chaudhry issued a brief statement denying a confrontation with the executive branch and the Court. He said the judiciary would work to strengthen the country's democratic set up and parliament, according to the Daily Times.

He credited parliament for refusing to pass a law extending the Ordinance which made possible the Supreme Court's verdict on 31 July 2009 which found the Ordinance of 3 November 2007 to be unconstitutional.

Next week the hearings begin on whether the President has or should have immunity since he should never have been qualified to hold office based on an unconstitutional Ordinance.

Afghanistan: According to a report in Reuters, a United Nations official claims that members of the Taliban's leadership secretly met UN Special Representative to Afghanistan Kai Eide in Dubai on 8 January to discuss the possibility of laying down arms. The regional commanders from the Taliban's Quetta Shura asked for the meeting. It was the first such meeting; the Taliban leadership reportedly asked for protection to come out in the open. No meeting has followed, the source said.

Comment. Power sharing is in the air during the London Conference on Afghanistan. At the London Conference the Western nations backed the plan for giving Afghanistan responsibility for security over a number of provinces by early 2011 and pledged up to $500 million to re-integrate Taliban fighters into mainstream society.

The US Secretary of State insisted the plan is not an exit strategy. In his State of the Union speech, the US President said clearly that US soldiers will begin to depart Afghanistan in 2011. Statements last week by senior US Defense Department officials and generals, before the State of the Union, were much more vague about withdrawals, citing conditions and circumstances. Hmm… the policy seems clear but keeps getting spun.

Security. The leaders of the Shinwari Pashtuns, who straddle the border near the Khyber Pass between Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and Peshawar Pakistan, reportedly agreed to support the Karzai government and to fight insurgents and burn down the homes of Afghans who harbor Taliban guerrillas in return for cash.

Elders from the tribe, which contains about 400,000 people, pledged to send military-age males from each family to the Afghan army or the police in the event of a Taliban attack. In exchange for support, American commanders reportedly agreed to channel $1 million in development projects directly to the tribal leaders, bypassing the local Afghan government.

According to the London Times, the first payment of $200,000 is due in the next few days. The deal supposedly is between the Coalition forces and the tribe.

The Times account indicates the agreement is the culmination of six months of interaction in which Coalition forces have sided with the Shinwari in a variety of situations including quarrels, feuds and fights against the Taliban who would ban Shinwari smuggling. It is not clear that this is a precedent but supposedly the Shinwari have expelled the Taliban from their part of Nangarhar Province, much as the northern tribes have expelled them from districts of Konduz Province in northern Afghanistan.

The arrangement is fragile and might not last, in the way of things in Afghanistan, but it showcases the point that Taliban support among Pashtun sub-tribes is limited. They do not represent an ethnic Pashtun movement. That is tonight's good news.

Iran: Iran executed by hanging two opposition protestors who were convicted last October of conspiring to overthrow the Islamic establishment and of membership in armed opposition groups.

The executions are an object lesson that the government is serious when it describes opposition as waging war against Allah, a capital offense.

Iraq: Update. Dar al Hayat reported today that the Awakening Councils in Diyala Governate said they are withdrawing their checkpoints in protest of the government's detention of their members, adding that the government must stop the detaining operation, so that they can return to their positions and participate in the security of March elections.

The Diyala Councils are the second Sunni Arab group to protest the al Maliki government's management of the election process.

Saudi Arabia-Afghanistan: At the London Conference today, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Saudi Arabia has two conditions for taking part in the Afghan peace process: "that the request comes officially from Afghanistan, and the Taliban has to prove its intentions in coming to the negotiations by cutting their relations with the terrorists and proving it."

The Prince is calling Mullah Omar's bluff about his profession that the Taliban harbor no global jihad aspirations. They also are confident that talks will make no progress unless all contacts with al Qaida are ended. That is a somewhat different and sterner approach than that taken by most of the London Conferees.

Saudi Arabia was one of the three states that recognized the Taliban regime when it was in power in Kabul. Omar and his cohorts deceived the Saudis and they will not be deceived again.

Libya: For the record. Up to 300 al Qaida members in Libyan prisons will be kept indefinitely after they have completed their jail sentences to keep them from executing future attacks, Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi said on 28 January, according to state television. "These people are heretics. They are followers of (Osama) Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri," Qadhafi said. This also is tonight's good news.

End of NightWatch for 28 January.

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