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NightWatch 20100323

NightWatch

For the Night of 23 March 2010

North Korea: For the record. The Daily NK reported today that the documents for promoting the succession by Kim Jung Eun, the third son of Kim Chong-il, are ready for being circulated and the education campaign began in January. What might be new to some is that the Jung Eun is being described as the Youth Captain.

Kim Il-sung was the Great Leader; Kim Chong-il is the Dear Leader and Jun Eun is, for now, the Youth Captain. Apparently one of the attributes that qualifies him for leadership is his strong facial resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il-sung. He looks like the founder of the country, with the unspoken implication that he might be the reincarnation of the Great Leader. Deep.

Pakistan: The tabling of the package of constitutional reform amendments in parliament has been delayed once again because the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Awami National Party (ANP) still have not settled the issue of renaming the North West Frontier Province.

The constitutional reform committee intended to submit the reform package to parliament today (Wednesday) the two parties indicated they needed more time for internal discussion.

Comment: The renaming is a concession to the Pashtun populations of the west to redefine their province as part of Pakistan like the other province names. Baluchistan, Punjab and Sinh provinces are named for the dominant ethnic group that inhabits each province. NorthWest Frontier Province is colonial holdover since 1905, when it was separated from then Punjab province.

The proposed new name is Pakhtoonkhwa. Pashtuns are also known as Pathans and Pakhtoons in local languages. The issue of renaming the northwest Pakhtoonkhwa has been discussed for generations. In 1997, the provincial assembly in Peshawar sought approval from the National Assembly in Islamabad, but failed to obtain it.

Prominent politicians in other provinces feared renaming the northwest would lead to the fragmentation of Pakistan because it would promote an independent Pashtun political identity across national boundaries. Past governments in Afghanistan, notably during the Nixon administration, promoted the idea of "Greater Pakhtoonistan" to unite Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan and thereby weaken Pakistan which always was hostile to the governments in Kabul until the emergence of the Taliban in the mid-1990s.

That might be the basis for the latest delays as well.

Pakistan-Afghanistan: The Daily Times reported on 24 March that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has appointed two of his top Taliban commanders from the south to replace his former deputy and long-time comrade-in-arms Mullah Abdul Ghani Berader who was arrested by Pakistani security personnel in Karachi last month.

A senior Taliban operative said that Omar has confirmed Abdul Qayum Zakir - a former Guantánamo Bay inmate - and Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor - a portly and personable rear-echelon leader - as his deputies, replacing Berader. Their appointments supposedly are intended to send the message that the fight continues despite the loss of Berader.

As one of their first orders of business only three days ago, Zakir and Mansoor reshuffled several shadow provincial governors in an effort to improve the insurgency's effectiveness.

Comment: According to several knowledgeable, brilliant and perceptive Readers, Zakir's appointment, most likely as overall military commander, is particularly troubling because of his vicious hostility to the US, as the result of his incarceration. His promotion means that power sharing talks are less likely to make much progress with the hard core Taliban.

Afghanistan: Update. A spokesman for Hizb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said the delegation had lunch with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace and planned to meet with him again, The Associated Press reported 23 March. Karzai's spokesman said the president would study the delegation's peace plan, but wouldn't comment on it.

A deputy to a Karzai adviser said the two sides resolved about 60 percent of the issues being negotiated. He predicted an agreement could be reached before the end of the week. A delegation member said Hekmatyar's group was determined not to leave the capital without a deal.

Comment: According to news services this weekend, the Hizb-i-Islami (Gulbuddin) plan includes a commitment for the early withdrawal of foreign forces. It is not clear whether this is a face saving required term or a genuine stumbling block. Hekmatyar's record of expedient political maneuvering would suggest it is a pro forma, negotiable term, rather than a deal-killer.

Iraq: Update. The governors and heads of provincial councils of nine provinces in southern and mid-Iraq met in Basra on 23 March to demand a manual count of the votes from the March parliamentary election, Aswat al-Iraq reported, citing a spokesperson.

End of NightWatch for 23 March.

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