Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Egyptian Army - To be feared or revered? WikiLeaks

Was just flipping through WikiLeaks when I came across this article... something I am sure Egyptians also have access to, given the amazing ability of technology to facilitate dissemination of info.

Robert Fisk, a respected British journalist who for many years has covered the Middle East and whose integrity has not been questioned, has reported that Mubarak actually ordered a Tiananmen Square like execution of the protestors in Tahrir square, which is not surprising.

What is surprising though is the fact that according to Fisk, the military honchos agreed to carry out the order but it was the soldier on the street who refused to follow the bidding of the military higher-ups. A far cry from Tunisia, where General Rashid Ammar, refused to follow Ben Ali's orders for a public massacre!

So the key question is whether the Army that is currently holding the fort in Egypt will be able to exercise control and enforce law and order or it too, may be at the mercy of the emotions of its rank and file? Anyone who has worked in the police / army knows that a large amount of power that the police or army wields is psychological - the fear of what the army and police can do often drives the public's response to them. In the absence of that fear, their ability to enforce law and order is hugely compromised.

But even more than that, is a bigger question, a bigger fear - is Egypt really safe in the very hands that were willing to order a massacre to control the pro-democracy demonstrators?

The Army has moved in, suspended the constitution, assumed power, promised to rewrite the constitution in 10 days and put it to vote, to limit its tenure to 6 months, to hold elections and the fact that it has included 2 on-line activists, Google executive Wael Ghonim and blogger Amr Salama, in the group of opposition leaders, augurs well.

But it has still not released prisoners that it took during the revolution, it has not lifted the longstanding emergency law which allows the authorities to arrest people without any charges and also allows them to restrict the right to freedom of speech...Has Egypt got rid of one kind of dictatorship only to be replaced by another?

On the flip side, maybe the refusal of the rank and file to obey the massacre orders was a good thing to have happened. If nothing else, this would be an indication to the Army that they cannot ride rough over the people, cos its own rank and file - its means and tools of imposing control - may well rebel against it dictates if the dictat is against the common will and good.

See Link to WikiLeaks:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Musings on the new path for Egypt

As I watch television, the visuals of the celebrations in Tahrir Square make me think about what all the commentators are talking about – establishment of democracy in Egypt. As I go through the names and the forms of government in the neighbouring countries, I pause and wonder at the probability of success of such an endeavour in a Muslim country. I am not being bigoted , condescending or racist (in terms of religion) but am just going through the list and I find that I come short when it comes to counting successful democracies in this region!

Of the 56 sovereign states that make up the membership of the International Islamic Conference, the only one that I can think of that is a relatively successful working model is Turkey. It makes you wonder why?

I think it’s safe to define democracy in simpler terms here as in a system of constitutional government in which the ruling party can be replaced without any violence in accordance with rules and procedure laid down in a constitution and by fair means. I don’t know, maybe democracy is over-rated? But I guess that the relative affluence achieved by United States & Western countries seems to reinforce benefits of democracy. Success of Japan and Germany once they renounced their autocratic institutions seem to add weight to the assertion that democracy is good :-0

Democracy may be good, but is it good for the Islamic world? Does it work in the Islamic World? Is it possible that some cultures are more conducive to democracy than others? Or is it because Islam is a strong religion in terms of its connect with its people? Is it difficult for rights and freedoms (including right to speech and freedom to practice religion as per your interpretation) that are inherent in a democracy, to exist in a state where the ultimate source of law is Islam?

I don’t know, and like I said, maybe democracy is over-rated 

There are enough and more ills even in functioning democracies. I guess Egypt needs to figure out for itself what works for it in the long run…..

Friday, February 11, 2011

What next?

One has to admire the Egyptians for sticking it out there, braving the soldiers, the rioting et all, for a cause dear to many an Egyptian's heart - freedom from Mubarak's rule. So the revolution has borne fruit, and, its a moment of great joy and acheivement for the people, but the key question to my mind is what next?

Egypt now enters an even more fragile and dangerous phase of its revolution - even more precarious than the revolution itself! Euphoria and celebration is all fine, but now is the time that the EGyptians need to carefully chose who will represent them in a democratic process if they are to preserve this hard won independence. The 6th October revolution, that Egyptians are so proud of, had a strong steering force - a President Sadat and a strong second-in-command in Mubarak, but the 11th February revolution leaves Egypt in the hands of a motley crew with hugely divergent beliefs and support bases.

More than ever now, the Egyptians need to think and plan who they want to hand the reins over to. The fear is that they are an emotional people, one can only hope that rationality rather than emotion plays a role in their decision making. But who is the alternative?

To make a rational, thought out choice, you need options - where are the options? 6th Of October revolution went down in the anals of Egyptian history cos its established Egyption supramacy on the Suez Canal and established it as a power to be recokned with for Israel, one hopes that 11th february will also be a landmark revolution that will forever pave the way for democracy in Egypt. Inshallah!

All the best to you Egypt.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To be or not to be

For all the protests, Egypt's tragedy is that it has no viable political alternative.

A Baradei, who has spent a privileged life, lived most of his time overseas, has no real experience of an average Egyptain's suffering? A man whose family has not lived in and continues to live outside Egypt? To my mind, and I may be wrong, an opportunist who is using the current situation to his advantage...

Or a Muslim Brotherhood which is still not organised enough to run a government and which will plunge Egypt into a abyss of fundamentalism furthering the Shia Sunni divide, rendering the Middle East even more fragile than it is? Egypt has been a beacon of stability in an otherwise volatile Middle East. There is always a danger that Muslim Brotherhood coming to power may change all of that!

Whether you like or hate him, the reality is that Mubarak has kept Egypt from becoming another fundamentalist state much like the army has done in Turkey. Was his reign perfect? Far from it! Tragedy is that power and wealth became concentrated in a few hands and Mubarak and his people failed to deliver basics to the people.

If Egypt becomes a fundamentalist state under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, it spells doom not only for the freedom that the Egyptians so crave but also for stability in the Middle East. Is that stability important for Egypt itself? Of course it is, at a minimum for the 11 billion dollars of tourism and American aid that supports the economy to a large extent.

Revolutions in the Islamic world appear to run the danger of alternate military /totalitarian/ fundamentalist regimes. An Iran is an example.

It is time for a change in Egypt. Whether its time for a change in regime or change in the way the regime functions remains to be seen. If the Egyptians do get Mubarak to go, what happens next? Is a rudderless state better than the existing state? Your heart goes out to the Egyptian people, whose long drawn suffering has finally found an outlet in this civil outburst but what next? Does Egypt really need a Muslim Brotherhood or the army? Both alternatives are equally scary!