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NightWatch 20130128

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NightWatch

For the night of 28 January 2013

India-Pakistan: Update. Cross-border bus service between India and Pakistan in the central Poonch sector of the Line of Control in Kashmir resumed on the 28th. Authorities suspended bus service and cross-border trade after clashes along between Indian and Pakistani security forces earlier in January. Officials said 64 passengers from Pakistan crossed to India while 84 went in the other direction on the bus service from Poonch to Rawalakot.

This is tonight's good news.

Egypt: Security. Large protests continued for a fifth day in Port Said despite the declaration of a state of emergency. Marchers in Port Said said they no longer recognized President Mursi's authority.

Clashes also occurred in Cairo. Protestors captured a police armored vehicle and set it afire in Tahrir Square.

Comment:  It is important to note that the latest civil disobedience is taking place almost exclusively in four cities: Cairo, Suez, Ismailia and Port Said. It is an urban phenomenon that appears to have little resonance outside the cities. Egypt is unstable, especially the cities, but the whole country is not rioting.

The significance of this condition is that the urban activists have the power to overthrow the government, but not the authority. They lack the national appeal to win an election.

The Islamists, led by the Brotherhood, might lack the power to overthrow the government, but certainly have the appeal to win elections. Governments are overthrown in cities, but legitimacy is based on a much larger constituency.

Politics. The Egyptian cabinet approved a draft law on the 28th that would allow President Mursi to deploy the armed forces on the streets "to participate with the police in preserving security and protecting vital establishments." The law would apply until after the next legislative elections and could be invoked whenever the president deems it necessary, according to the state news agency MENA.

The upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, ratified both the declaration of a state of emergency and the law empowering the armed forces to make civilian arrests in safeguarding state institutions and restoring security.

Comment: One of the last actions of the interim government under Field Marshal Tantawi was implementation of a Ministry of Justice order in June 2012 empowering the armed forces to make civilian arrests. Mursi criticized that power in an al Jazeera interview.

Nevertheless, Mursi himself issued a decree in December 2012 that temporarily authorized the military to arrest civilians who opposed the constitutional referendum. The difference is that in today's action went through the motions of having a law ratified.

The Shura Council is dominated by Islamists. That means it provided a rubber stamp to a presidential decree drafted in the form of a law. Mursi is using the same tactics that Mubarak and Tantawi used.

Mali: Update. A spokesman for the secular Touareg rebel group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) said Monday that the group's fighters now control Kidal and the nearby town of Tessalit near the Algerian border. There has been no independent confirmation of the claim.

Meanwhile, French media services reported French and Malian troops entered central Timbuktu on Monday.

Comment: Azawad is the name the Touaregs give to their homeland in northern Mali. Curiously, the MNLA is not the group that claimed to have broken with al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). That was a more Islamist Touareg group called Ansar al Dine. Ansar al Dine supposedly clashed with and defeated the MNLA at Gao last June.

Allegiances might seem to change swiftly and the two groups appear to be rivals. The tangent between Ansar and the MNLA is advancement of the Touaregs. Thus, it is no coincidence that the Touaregs have groups that can fight credibly on either the government's or the Islamists' side. That way they can advance Touareg interests in greater autonomy and better government services, no matter which side wins.

Right now, the coalition forces are winning and, thus, the MNLA reappears. Ansar fighters probably ran from Kidal.

End of NightWatch for 28 January.

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