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

Bangladesh: The government has ordered deployments of tens of thousands of soldiers and police across Bangladesh to try to prevent political violence ahead of next month's elections. Troops are being deployed in at least 59 of Bangladesh's 64 districts, election commission spokesman SM Asaduzzaman told the press. "They'll be used as a striking force if there is any violence and they will patrol important areas, streets and highways," he said.

The scenario for violent confrontation results from opposition leader Khaleda Zia's order that her Bangladeshi Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters stage nationwide protests against the elections. Zia said she and her party will boycott the 5 January general elections unless Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina quits and a neutral caretaker government is installed. She also has called for a mass march on Dhaka, the capital.

Prime Minister Hasina's Awami League (AL) government has rejected the opposition's demand. Last month, Hasina put together a multi-party coalition and offered Zia any post she wanted. Zia refused the offer.

Comment: Two powerful and talented women, Zia and Hasina, have dominated Bangladeshi politics for decades, relieved only by military governments. Hasina is the eldest daughter of the father and first prime minister of an independent East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh, Mujibur Rahman. Her Awami League party stands for secular democracy.

Khaleda Zia is the wife of the seventh president of Bangladesh, the late President General Ziaur Rahman, who eventually came to power after Mujibur Rahman was assassinated. The BNP stands for moderate Islamist principles as a guide for democracy. Those are the political precepts of the Pakistan and Bangladesh Armies.

NightWatch was on duty when Mujibur Rahman led East Bengal/East Pakistan's secession from Pakistan in 1971 with the support of the Indian Army Corps based on Calcutta under General Jagjit Singh Aurora. It was Christmas time.

The new country was founded on principles of secular democracy. India did not want an Islamist state on its eastern border. That was one of Indira Gandhi's conditions for supporting Mujibur Rahman's rebel movement.

The political differences between Zia and Hasina are based mostly on family differences, but Zia is closer to the founding principles. Hasina is closer to the imams and the Army. Make no mistake: both women are very modern, skilled politicians who enjoy modern amenities.

Alternating Awami League and Nationalist Party governments in the past two decades have done little to relieve the grinding poverty of Bangladesh, but have sparked violence in every election. Army intervention, invariably to promote political reform and end partisan violence, has failed to improve the government.

There is always violence in Bangladeshi elections, but it will be contained. Regardless of which party wins the elections, there will be little change, at least while Zia and Hasan alternate leadership. This is a stable living system.

Iraq: For the record. On 24 December, at least 75 people were killed and 141 more were wounded in at least 17 shootings, bombings and murders. On Christmas, an additional 37 people, all Christians, were murdered in Christian areas of Baghdad.

Egypt: Update. A leader of the Muslim Brotherhood said the movement would keep up protests even though it has been listed as a terrorist group. A Muslim Brother was killed in a clash on the 26thin Cairo. The government arrested dozens of Brothers pursuant to the new anti-terror law.

An explosive device detonated on a bus in Cairo's Nasr City district on the 26th, injuring five people.

A Sinai-based jihadi organization, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the bombing on 24 December in Mansoura. The death toll has risen to 16 from that bombing. The Brothers almost certainly did not execute the Christmas Eve attack.

The government relented a bit in that it now will allow hospitals financed by the Brotherhood to draw on Brotherhood bank accounts for funding.

Comment: The Brothers almost certainly did not bomb the Mansoura police station, but that is not relevant. Any move the government makes serves its purposes of suppressing the Brotherhood and all its supporters and sympathizers as well as maintaining civil order. Hospitals will remain open, but under surveillance, to be sure.

If the Brotherhood persists in continuing protests, as they announced today, they will make it easier for the police to identify, track and arrest the most courageous and foolhardy Brothers, which is what the police want.

Two bombings in a week mean that the Egyptian government needs to improve the quality of its domestic intelligence because law and order are slowly declining. Key questions are who supports/finances the Sinai-based terrorists and who aids them in executing attacks west of the Suez Canal.

A living systems analysis is overdue by agencies and analysts with access to classified information sources to expose the bombing support system..

Central African Republic (CAR): Update. Six Chadian peacekeepers were killed on 25 December in Bangui, probably by Christian militias because the Chadians are Muslims.

On the 26th, assailants armed with heavy weapons, according to press reports, attempted to attack the presidential palace in Bangui, but were repulsed by loyal troops.

Some local experts conjectured that the attack was mounted by Christian militiamen who hoped to kill or overthrow the current president, Michel Djotodia - a Muslim and former rebel who overthrew Francois Bozize, the elected Christian president nine months ago.

Comment: Most citizens of CAR are Christians. They are not fighting back against the Muslims who seized power by force last March under Djotodia's leadership. The African Union peacekeepers are either in the way or are targets because a large number of them are Muslims, such as the Chadians.

The UN has no idea how to deal with this. The Christians are taking back the capital from the Muslim Seleka rebels, led by Djotodia.

Today's events confirm the judgment that the presence of well-equipped ground forces mounting patrols will have no effect on the violence, and might be making it worse.

End of NightWatch


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