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Pak Prime Minister Candidate Arrested on Drug Charge

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Pakistan: On Thursday, 21 June, a Pakistani anti-drug enforcement agency (ANF) issued an arrest warrant for Pakistan People's Party (PPP) nominee for prime minister, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, who is known to be a close ally of President Zardari. Shahabuddin has been at the center of a scam to produce ephedrine ostensibly for export but in fact for illegal drug dealers. He signed the false export permits, according to one news service. Thirty more suspects are expected to be arrested in the drug scheme.

According to news service reports from Pakistan, the approval for his arrest was made months ago, but not acted on. The Supreme Court even had pressed the ANF earlier this month on why Shahabuddin hadn't been successfully captured yet. The answer was timing, and stalling by the bureaucracy.

Comment: Shahabuddin's arrest is an embarrassment, but will not derail the search for a new prime minister. The News reports the PPP has four other potential nominees under consideration. However, it does reinforce the image that the government is led by corrupt politicians and is not in control of the country.

One Pakistani authority opined that elections must be held soon because of a succession of scandals involving high elected officials. General elections were last held in 2008. The five-year term of the current National Assembly expires on 18 March 2013.

Syria-Jordan: A Syrian air force pilot flew his MiG-21 aircraft to Jordan while on a training mission. Syrian state television reported that a MiG-21 had gone missing without details, though international news services identified the pilot as a colonel who requested political asylum.

Al Arabiya among others reported that Jordan's council of ministers decided to grant defected Syrian pilot Col. Hassan Merei al-Hamade's request for asylum, but on humanitarian grounds.

Subsequently, Syria denounced the pilot as a traitor and requested Jordan return the aircraft.

Comment: This is the first air force defection of this kind reported in open source materials. News services have not reported the man's reasons for defecting or information about any Jordanian air defense response to a Syrian military aircraft that was allowed to land at a Jordanian military airbase.

One news service suggested this defection is a tipping point for Syria. Others have let readers assume that the man was making a statement of opposition to the regime, which might be true or only partly true. In some cases, the high-minded explanation masks other more urgent motives that prompt a person to defect, including infidelity, insubordination, debts and criminal behavior. Defectors leave their families behind, subject to the tender mercies of an authoritarian regime. There is more to this story.

It is embarrassing for the regime because the late Hafez al Asad was a pilot and favored the air force. The government has continued those policies, although most pilots are Sunnis, not Alawites..

Egypt-Saudi Arabia: Anwar Eshki, head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies and advisor to Saudi Arabia's Cabinet ministers, said Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) lacks the political vision and experience necessary for governing the country, Ahram Online reported.

Comment: This Saudi expert seems to imply that the Saudi government expects the Muslim Brotherhood will never lead Egypt.

End of NightWatch

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