Egypt’s hijacked revolution
Similar to the recent uprising in Indian Held Kashmir, the centre stage was dominated by the youngsters, born and grownup during Mubarrak era. Their internet skills were instrumental in maintaining communication amongst peers; the message spread across the country at phenomenal speed, inspiring the masses to join the struggle. Crowds came from across the country. There were young and old people, women in hijabs protesting alongside men, toddlers on the shoulders of their parents, jean-clad teenagers, religious as well as secular; Christians and Muslims alike. The labour and trade unions joined in the revolution, and so did the lawyers and doctors. Within a few days, number of agitators rose from under 200 protesters to millions. It was a national movement cutting across all social, political and ethnic divides. However, all of this did not fall from the blue. Though Tunisian uprising provided the vital spark for Egyptian jump start, under currents were operating in Egypt since long; turmoil was predicted by the titles of recent books like: ‘Egypt on the Brink’; ‘Egypt: The Moment of Change’; ‘Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution’ etc. Like most of contemporary Afro-Asian public uprisings, Egyptian revolution has also fizzled out midway as armed forces have hijacked it; at least for the time being. There is a clear-cut disconnect between the apparent objectives of the demonstrators and the outcome. In all probability, it will not be possible for the military regime and the espousers of revolution to pretend as allies for an indefinite period. So far military’s strategy has been to calm the nation and the world.
Ever since ‘Camp David’ accord, Egypt’s armed forces have become heavily addicted to the US support. Egypt’s regime has annually been receiving an average of 1.3 billion dollars as military aid. The US and Egyptian armies hold joint exercises bi-annually, in which a reportedly around 25 thousand American soldiers participate. Hence, it would be a bit naive to believe that Egyptian army has become a pro-people’s force, that too overnight. As of now, the military regime retains the control of the country, the constitution has been suspended and the parliament has been dissolved. Military has announced that previous regime’s much hated emergency law will be lifted when the security situation allows. Elections are promised in six months. Egyptians may be chanting that their country is free, but their struggle is far from over. Egypt is not free yet. The old regime and its apparatus are still very much in place and waiting for the dust to settle. The counter-revolution is emerging. The so-called “transitional phase” is being used to: buy time in order to erode and eventually evade people’s popular demands; to preserve prevalent economic policies; to subvert the political aspirations of the public; and to tighten the straitjacket of external debts. Broader motivation and objective of the counter-revolutionary forces is to restore status quo ante minus Mubarak.
Fearful of a free election that may bring an Islamist coalition into power, counter revolutionaries are all set to sabotage the hard-earned victory of the Egyptian people by prolonging the military rule on one pretext or the other. One can not ignore the fact that same Egyptian army faithfully secured the Gaza and Sinai borders for Israel and stopped the flow of humanitarian aid to reach the stranded Gazans. Egyptian people cannot forget the betrayal of 1952, when their dreams to live freely in a dignified way were dismantled in the months following the ouster of King Farouq. Though army officers threw out Egypt’s last monarch in 1952, soon after, ‘Free Officers Movement’ took full control of the country while those who had actively participated in the revolution were put behind the bars. Since that time, all of Egypt’s leaders have been military officers; and both serving and retired generals are sprinkled throughout the organs of government. If ever the people of Egypt get a chance to vote in a free and fair election, they would, in all probability, throw up a nationalist government less secular, less pro America and less friendly towards Israel. Moreover, it would be more sympathetic towards Palestinian cause and would be poised to ease the sufferings of the besieged people of Gaza. These parameters run counter to the corporate interests of Egyptian military establishment. Next few weeks will be defining moments for Egypt. Old guards of the hated regime are still in charge. Ruling military council comprises of the people that were picked up by Mubarak. They may have agenda of their own which is likely to be at odds with the rightful aspirations of the masses. Much to the relief of Israel and America, the ruling council was prompt to declare that it would honour all treaty obligations.
The stakes are getting higher. The people of Egypt need to be aware that American and Israeli governments are hedging their bets. They are working hard to mould the outcome of the peoples’ movement according to their designs. In an associated development, the US and NATO are also augmenting their naval presence in Eastern Mediterranean. This could be meant to aid the counter-revolution; it can also be used to intervene against a successful revolution. Nevertheless, the expanse of Egyptian revolt extends well beyond the borders of Egypt, encompassing the entire Middle East. Egypt has become the epicenter of change, though event did not start there, but in Tunisia. Now resistance is not limited to these two countries. Mass protests by disgruntled people have taken place elsewhere as well, notably in Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, Libya and Bahrain etc. Most of the regimes of Middle East are busy instituting anticipatory façades of reforms to pacify their people.
For decades discontent has been simmering throughout the Middle East over American support for Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, and over its intimate connections with the repressive regimes. The spontaneous and epidemic like popular uprisings in the Middle East could be a way to avenge the collective humiliation that Arabs have felt since the Camp David accord and more acutely since American invasion of Iraq on mischievously tailored intelligence data.
—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.