Night Watch

North Korea: May Day, 1 May, is a public holiday in honor of workers.

North Korea-South Korea: Update. A South Korean official said members of the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee (KIDMAC) are in the process of requesting detailed claims made by the North in regards to unpaid wages, corporate taxes and communication service charges. It is estimated that the North is probably asking for around US$80 million, including $72 million in wages.

"Once they receive the information from the North, the data will be cross-checked with what South Korean companies are saying so as to facilitate the settlement of accounts in a fair manner," said the Unification Ministry source. "The entire process should not take much time, but the seven people will probably not be able to return during the day (30 April)."

Comment: Seven South Koreans remain in Kaesong. According to South Korean press, the Seoul government is willing to pay what its firms owe North Korea, but it plans to ask the North to allow the transfer of manufacturing materials and finished products left behind by the 123 companies that had factories in the border city located just north of the demilitarized zone. After the seven men leave Kaesong, South Korea plans to cut off its electricity, turning out the lights on the highest achievement of the 2000 summit between South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader, the late, Kim Chong-il.

Pakistan: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday banned former president Pervez Musharraf from running for public office for the rest of his life. Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan referred to Musharraf in court as "the former dictator" and said he was being banned from politics because he had "ordered senior judges and their families be put under house arrest and twice abrogated the country's constitution."

In a speech on 30 April, the annual commemoration of soldiers fallen in service to Pakistan and called Youm e Shuhada, Chief of Army Staff General Kayani pledged Army support for the 11 May elections.

"I assure you, that we stand committed to wholeheartedly assist and support in the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections, to the best of our capabilities and remaining within the confines of the Constitution. I also assure you that this support shall solely be aimed at strengthening democracy and rule of law in the country."

Comment: Musharraf has multiple additional cases pending that might result in him becoming the first former chief of army staff to serve in prison. If he hoped that the Army would rise in his defense, Kayani's speech makes clear that there will be no Army uprising on his watch. His three year extension as Chief of Army Staff is due to terminate in July 2013.

Pakistan appears to have moved beyond the Musharraf era except for holding accountable for his constitutional crimes. That does not mean that Pakistan has achieved sufficient political maturity so that military coups will not recur. Much depends on future Chiefs of Army Staff. It just means that Musharraf's time has passed.

Lebanon/Hezbollah-Syria: Al Ahram reported on 30 April a televised speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanese Hezbollah. He confirmed that Hezbollah fighters are aiding government troops in Syria.

"A large number of (Syrian rebels) were preparing to capture villages inhabited by Lebanese," so it was "normal to offer every possible and necessary aid to help the Syrian army, popular committees (pro-government militia) and the Lebanese," Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

He warned the Syrian opposition, "You will not be able to take Damascus by force and you will not be able to topple the regime militarily. This is a long battle. Syria has real friends in the region and in the world who will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of America or Israel."

Comment: Nasrallah arrived in Tehran on Monday to participate in the World Summit of Ulama and Islamic Awakening. This is an Islamic scholars conference.

The timing of Nasrallah's speech suggests that it is a response to the discussion in the US about alleged Syrian use of chemical weapons as a red line for increased US intervention. It signals an escalation of the conflict and reconfirms that the Syrian fighting has become a regional war by proxy.

Al Arabiya reported that the bodies of 30 Hezbollah fighters were returned to Lebanon yesterday, bringing the total number of Hezbollah fighters reported killed to over 130.

End of NightWatch

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