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NightWatch 20120124


For the night of 24 January 2012

Administrative note: Technical problems resulted in a backlog of feedback notes of which NightWatch has just recently become aware. NightWatch regrets any inconvenience and will respond to every note in the backlog within the next 48 hours.

Pakistan: On 23 January the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution against former President General Pervez Musharraf demanding his arrest upon arrival in Pakistan and registration of a case under Article 6 of the Constitution for constitutional crimes.

Comment: Musharraf recently restated his intention -- repeated his threat for a third time - to return to Pakistan to run for political office. Some loyal civilian supporters in Karachi's Sindh Province, who benefitted under Musharraf's tenure, would rally to Musharraf's leadership.

The major unknown is the extent of his support in the Pakistan armed forces. Musharraf was the leader of Pakistan long enough to have promoted all the current Army corps commanders and promoted and advanced General Kayani as his hand-picked successor as Chief of Army Staff.

It is no stretch to infer that Kayani has been following a general plan laid out by Musharraf before he went into exile in London to lower the Army's public profile and restore public confidence in the institution. The Pakistan Army is structured hierarchically for active duty and retired senior officers so that Kayani would follow the guidelines of his mentor, if he valued his retirement.

Kayani has not done well, however. His inept dealings with the Americans have not raised respect for the Army's capabilities, though sympathetic support has increased for a Pakistani David standing up to an American Goliath. Still, the Army still looks feckless as a defender of Pakistan against American intrusions from Afghanistan, especially after the death of Osama bin Laden last May and the 26 November killings.

Musharraf apparently judges the time is ripening for his return to set things to rights. Musharraf retains his messianic convictions.

Prime Minister Gilani's supporters have attempted to pre-empt Musharraf by passing a resolution. They seem to forget that in October 1999 when General Musharraf overthrew the elected government, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had issued orders for Musharraf's arrest when he landed at Karachi from an official visit to Sri Lanka. Karachi's 5th Corps Commander ignored the civilian government's directive, allowed Musharraf to land at Karachi, facilitated him organizing his supporters and enabled Musharraf to overthrow the parliamentary government. Musharraf apparently judges that could happen again.

Afghanistan-France; Update. French Foreign Minister Juppe told the media today that the decision on withdrawing France's 3,500 troops early depends on the outcome of talks with President Karzai on 27 January. Juppe said France will not withdraw its forces in 2012.

Egypt: In a rambling ten minute public statement, Field Marshal Husayn Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, on the occasion of the Egyptian revolution's first anniversary announced, …"Now that the people have stated their opinion and chosen their MPs in the People's Assembly to assume legislative and monitoring tasks, I have taken a decision to end the state of emergency in the entire republic, except in confronting crimes of thuggery. This decision will take effect as of 25 January 2012."

Comment: The Egyptian Army appears to be moving with deliberate speed to fade into the political background without relinquishing ultimate power. Its vast business interests and economic sinecures require the active duty leadership maintain vigilance against inroads by would-be populist leaders among the Islamist politicians. Nevertheless, Tantawi and the cohorts of active duty and retired Egyptian officers engaged in business seek to avoid appearing as obstacles to the democratic impulses they have unleashed and which threaten to devour them in the future.

The low profile strategy will not save an economy that is insolvent. As Spengler reported in Asia Times Online, less than a third of the government bond sale was purchased, although the yield was 16%. Egypt suffers from food shortages, fuel shortages, job shortages and significant capital flight.

These are conditions that make it impossible for employed Egyptians to make ends meet. That is the flashpoint for civil disorder leading to violent protests. The Army generals prefer that the newly elected parliamentary government take responsibility for managing the coming storm of civil disorders.

Any outside support to Egypt at this time only buys time before default on sovereign debt. Economic conditions are portents for a return of authoritarian political leadership by public acclamation … such as elections. The Army leadership appears agnostic about authoritarian or Islamist government, provided the vast Army economic holdings are not affected.

End of NightWatch for 24 January.

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