Night Watch

Afghanistan: About 160 girls and four teachers from a girl's school were "poisoned" and had to be rushed to the hospital in the northern province of Takhar on 29 May. This is the third attack of this kind in a week.

The Ahindara Girls high school students suffered from poisoning - probably from an inhalant grenade, on Tuesday morning and were brought to the Takhar Civil Hospital, head of the hospital, Habibollah Rostaqi, told Pajhwok Afghan News. Four female teachers were also affected from the poisoning.

Twenty students are still admitted in the hospital, while the others were discharged, he said, adding that their blood samples were sent to Kabul for investigation. Nearly 1,200 girls are studying in the school.

Education director Abdol Wahab Zafari said they were not sure why the students were targeted and how the poisoning happened in the school. "I suddenly felt dizzy and fell to the ground," said Tahira, an 8th grade student.

These incidents create fear among female students and their families, said Zainab Mubariz, head of human rights department at the police headquarters. She urged the education department to allow the students to go on leave for few days so that a thorough investigation could be carried out on the incident.

Last week 120 students and three teachers of the Bibi Hajira high school were poisoned in the city. Two days ago, 43 students of the same school suffered poisoning again.

Special Comment: NightWatch confesses to a strong bias in favor of educating masses of Muslim girls. In studying the Taliban and all extreme Muslim movements, it seems obvious that many Muslim men greatly fear the education and liberation of Muslim girls and women.

During the course of the Allied fight against the Taliban, young Pashtun males on motorbikes have targeted girls' schools from Herat to Jalalabad, using gas grenades or other forms of bombs. In the Pashtun provinces, the Taliban seem to prefer to burn the schools and their supplies. In the northern provinces, the Pashtun extremist young men like to poison the girls with gas bombs.

Nevertheless, even in Pashtun provinces in the south, girls' schools proliferate. The elders and the older women in the villages want their girls to get educated.

NightWatch considers the proliferation of girls' schools to be an absolute good, resulting from the US intervention in Afghanistan. The schools get burned to the ground and attacked with poison bombs, but dedicated teachers, parents and village leaders in all provinces rebuild the schools, almost always. Most Afghan fathers now want their daughters educated. This is new.

The education and dignification of Afghan Muslim girls and women pose a great threat to the male-dominated Islamic extremists. It makes one want to investigate just what notions the imams are teaching the boys in the madrassahs in the Pashtun provinces and in Pakistan.

Egypt: On 28 May during a news conference, the head of Egypt's High Presidential Elections Commission (HPEC) Faruq Sultan announced that two presidential candidates who would participate in the June run-off election would be the Muslim Brotherhood's official candidate Muhammad Mursi and former Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq.

According to the presidential election law, a candidate shall win more than half the votes in the first round in order to be a president; otherwise the top two candidates will face one another in a runoff on 16-17 June.

Sultan said the total eligible voters in the presidential polls amounted to 50,996,746. He said 23,672,236 cast votes, representing a turnout of 46.42 per cent.

Sultan also announced the final results of the vote for all 13 candidates. The leading candidates were:

Amr Musa got 2,588,850 votes.

Abd-al-Mun'im Abu-al-Futuh got 4,065,239 votes.

Ahmad Shafiq got 5,505,327 votes.

Hamdin Sabahi got 4,820,273 votes.

Muhammad Mursi got 5,764,952 votes.

Comment:  Seven protests have been filed, but four have been dismissed on procedural grounds and the others would not alter the outcome.

The votes for the five candidates listed above account for about 95% of the votes cast. The pro-Islamist voters committed fratricide. Had they been capable of backing a single candidate they probably could have won an outright majority, but not by much

The secular and pro-Mubarak candidates also might have obtained a slim majority, depending on how moderate Muslims voted, had the field been narrower.

Many commentators have observed that the Egyptian electorate is polarized, based on the outcome of the voting.

NightWatch stresses that the polarity is not just between Islamists and Mubarak-era secularists. The third pole is the majority of registered voters who failed to vote for any candidate. This group requires extensive study because the so-called revolution in Egypt appears to be a minority phenomenon. While it is common in the western democracies for a president to be elected by 25% of the registered voters, Egypt was supposedly experiencing a revolution. Apparently, that story line is bloated and exaggerated.

More than half of the Egyptians showed they are apathetic about democracy and revolution or reject both. They voted by staying home. That result looks far more important and potentially more ominous in the long run than the vote count. Considering the extent of political change in Egypt in the past year, it is curious that a strong majority did not care enough to vote or rejected it by not voting.

The crucial point is that 54% of the voters did not support democracy. That suggests that majority rule is in fact minority rule, by a large margin.

Mali: On 26 May, members of two key rebel groups in northern Mali agreed to join forces in order to establish an independent state. Representatives from the secular ethnic Tuareg group, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), and the Islamist Al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Dine signed an agreement to merge the groups. MNLA spokespeople said they intend to impose a non-rigorous form of Sharia (Islamic law) in the proposed new state.

On 27 May, officials from Mali's interim government firmly rejected the secession, saying Mali would remain united and secularly governed.

On 29 May, the agreement between Tuareg MNLA rebels in Mali and Ansar Dine broke down over imposing sharia law in the Azawad desert. The Tuaregs prefer a moderate version of sharia, while Ansar Dine hardliners, whose ethnic background is not clear, back a severe version that includes decapitation and amputation of hands as punishments for some crimes.

Comment: The point about which the two rebel groups agree is that northern Mali is separate from the regions governed from Bamako. The fragmentation of Mail is confounding in that it has been almost ineluctable because of the differences between the peoples of the north and south. And yet Mail endured.

It also is confounding because the impetus for fragmentation of a desert state that can barely support itself emerged from a combination of the ripple effects of the overthrow of Qadhafi in Libya and the hubris of a US-trained captain in the Malian Army.

The irony is that the NATO campaign to liberate Libya produced the breakup of a Mali and the creation of yet another refuge for terrorists. Apparently not what was intended at all.

End of NightWatch

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Night Watch

NightWatch is an internationally acclaimed nightly newsletter that tracks and assesses threats to US national security. It has an edgy, executive style unlike any other summary of its kind.
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