For the night of 28 August 2014
Pakistan: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was named with 20 others today as a suspect in the murder of 14 protestors in Lahore in June. The Pakistan Army is staging a constitutional coup.
According to a leader of the protest movement in Islamabad, "The army chief has asked us to give him 24 hours to solve the crisis…..The army will compile and put together a package of our demands and make sure they are implemented."
Comment: The Prime Minister was named in a first information report, which is a criminal complaint. That is the earliest stage in a criminal investigation. The charges are contrived and should be dismissed as an abuse of process.
The prime minister has absolute immunity from prosecution. The Pakistani courts confirmed that immunity for senior officials when Zardari was president of Pakistan. Thus, the allegations against Nawaz Sharif are driven by political machinations, to coerce him to resign as prime minister, most likely with the backing of the Pakistan Army.
The Army continues to despise Nawaz Sharif mainly for pursuing treason charges against former army chief and former president Musharraf.
Army meddling again. The Pakistan Army leadership said it will resolve the political crisis in Islamabad where protestors have camped out and continue to insist that Nawaz Sharif resign because of voter fraud. Nawaz Sharif reportedly has agreed to surrender much of his authority over national security affairs to the Chief of the Army Staff, in order to avoid a constitutional crisis.
The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that the Army has dictated to the Prime Minister that he will be a ceremonial prime minister for the remainder of his term of office. The Army will run the government.
Comment: The Pakistan Army is staging a coup. It is similar in style to that conductged against Benazir Bhutto by General Jehangir Karamat. Karamat used compliant civilian institutions against then-Prime Minister Bhutto to engineer her ouster. General Sharif is doing something similar. Without Army backing, Nawaz Sharif cannot remain in office. The police will not stand for law and the constitutional order against the Army.
Pakistan is another Muslim country that is incapable of living within the rule of law in a Western-style democracy. The Pakistan Army is a law unto itself that no elected government has proven capable of controlling. Army rule, directly or behind the scenes, always has been a disaster that pillaged the economy for the Army's benefit and steadily moved the country towards stricter observance of Sharia. The number of religious schools grows exponentially whenever the Army governs, according to Pakistani studies.
The Army always intervenes when it needs or wants more money from the government or when government action threatens to limit Army money-making enterprises and industries. The public, political issues seem portentous, but always camouflage money grubbing by the Pakistan Army generals.
The impulse for converting Islamic fundamentalism into political activism often has originated in the less educated and less enlightened northwestern regions and the tribal agencies, from which the latest protest movement arose. Prior Islamist movements that opposed the elected civilian government, like the current protestors in Islamabad, always had the backing of the Pakistan Army and the intelligence service, which are more Islamist than modern. Few Western political and military leaders seem to have understood that.
The political struggle with Nawaz Sharif, however, is most immediately about his trial of Pervez Musharraf. The Army is using its leverage and political clout to not only exonerate Musharraf and enable him to leave Pakistan, but also to make a power grab on the authority of the elected government.
The Pakistan Army leadership already has achieved a constitutional coup through threats and coercion. It also has gutted the Court system again. The protestors are simply pawns and dupes of the Army, as were their predecessors when Musharraf took power in 1999. The Army is not just incompetent, it is lawless, but good at overthrowing its own government. The elected civilian government has lost the struggle for civilian control of the Army and for control of Pakistani national security affairs.
The most fundamental rule of violent political instability is that the group with the most guns always wins. This development can lead eventually to another conflict because the Pakistan Army appears to want hostile relations with India.
Israel-Syria: The Syrian militants who seized a border post on the Golan Heights yesterday also captured 47 UN peacekeepers from Fiji and have pinned down 81 Filipino peacekeepers, according to the UN.
Comment: The number of captured peacekeepers is significant because it proves that UN peacekeeping operations fundamentally are a waste of finances. They have never kept the peace and cannot even defend themselves. The unanswered questions concern how a trained modern military contingent could let itself be captured en masse by poorly organized, undisciplined militants in pick-up trucks.
UN peacekeeping missions are one of the oldest and most expensive scams the UN has foisted on those members who pay the bills. There are several recent exceptions, but in those the local general in charge usually exceeded his authority.
Ukraine: The news headlines during this Watch state that Russian forces have invaded southeastern Ukraine from the Rostov area. NATO has released images of two units of Russian self-propelled artillery in column of march on roads in southeastern Ukraine. The separatists and the Ukrainian army never had this equipment in this location.
Comment: Today's NATO imagery is the most conclusive evidence released to date that shows the Russians are up to old tricks. The Soviets did the something similar in North Vietnam, in Syria and in Egypt where they introduced air defense units in earlier conflicts. The NightWatch hypothesis is that the Russian leaders intend to carve out an autonomous region of Ukraine that functions like the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq. It will remain part of Ukraine, but run its own foreign affairs which will include granting Russia overland travel rights to Crimea.
The key question is not, as the US ambassador to the UN posed, today, what will make the Russians listen to the UN. It is what will ensure that the Russians stop. Obviously sanctions miss the mark.
The NightWatch judgment is the Russians might halt for a time after they secure overland access to Crimea, but they also will seek to create an overland link to Transnistria in eastern Moldova. For now, there is nothing that will stop them.
The next major confrontation with Europe, however, will concern the reliability of Article 5 of that NATO Treaty as it applies to the Balkan states. The Russian leaders seem to judge that the weakness of the current NATO leadership offers the best opportunity in a lifetime to steal those states from NATO and bring them back under the protection of Russia. If NATO fails to prevent that, NATO will have made itself irrelevant.
End of NightWatch for 27 August.
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