What next for Egypt?

Published: February 14, 2011
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The writer served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Russia, Mexico, the UAE and Egypt

The writer served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Russia, Mexico, the UAE and Egypt

President Hosni Mubarak, who ruled over Egypt like a pharaoh for nearly 30 years, resigned on February 11, 2011, after an unprecedented popular uprising that lasted almost three weeks. Thank goodness, because if he had not, as he had said in a TV address the night before, the country would have plunged into bloodshed and utter chaos. So what happened in less than 24 hours to make him change his mind? It seems to me that the higher echelons of the military, recognising the grave consequences of his refusal to quit, told him to go.

I met Mubarak a few times during my three-year stay in Cairo. When I presented my credentials — when I went with our prime minister to meet him — I found him to be one of the stiffest of the 13 heads of state I had met in the last 15 years of my diplomatic career. He never smiled, hardly ever shook hands, never attended a diplomatic reception or received any ambassador alone, except perhaps the American, the Russian, the Saudi and one or two others.

My other indelible memory of Egypt is that of oppressing poverty, huge disparity of wealth and a large number of beggars of all ages, thronging every historical site, cringing for ‘bukhshish’ from tourists. It was embarrassing, even to me, a Pakistani. Egypt earned twice as much foreign exchange, had less than half of Pakistan’s population, yet its poverty was as great as Pakistan’s.

Torture, death in prison and long jail sentences were common, and these had created such terror that all of Egypt seemed wrapped in a blanket of silence. People went about their business on tiptoe, even students and labourers, normally vibrant elements in any society, did not dare utter a word of protest.

So if anyone had asked me in June 1997, when I left Egypt, about the present uprising, my honest answer would have been a firm no. I could not even imagine the current situation. In that sense, what has happened in Egypt is truly revolutionary and not just a revolt.

Hence, it is to the credit of the Egyptian people that they forced Mubarak to resign, though he tried hard to stay in power. The question is, what now? The first challenge for the Supreme Military Council (SMC), now in charge, is to manage the withdrawal symptoms among the Egyptians caused by the diminishing intoxication of victory and the impatience for a new civilian government in the shortest possible time. Therefore, to keep the Egyptians’ hope of a real change alive and avert another round of uprising and a bloody confrontation between the Egyptians and the military, the SMC should take the following measures at once.

All its members must declare their intentions not to be candidates in the next election, even as a civilians; set up a commission of eminent Egyptian intellectuals/thinkers to frame a new constitution; encourage people to form new political parties, but pass a law that no party with less than a million verifiable members will be allowed to contest elections; make this  applicable on all parties, new and old; form an independent Election Commission; announce the date of the next election, which should be held between three to four months from the day of Mubarak’s resignation.

It is obvious that the Egyptian revolution will have an impact throughout the Arab and Muslim world, including Pakistan. The militaries of all these countries will be forced to resist the temptation of carrying out a coup and the monarchies will have to move towards constitutional rule.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • Feb 15, 2011 - 5:19PM

    How quick we are to take the bite of the cake baking anywhere in the world. and how quick we are to reach the conclusions and of course how quick we are in giving unasked advices.
    There is no doubt that Egyptians have done a great job but there is still a long way to go.
    they have turned the rock but there are billions of pebbles to be removed. As Farid Zakria rightly named it as ” beginning of a Marathon.”
    But I am amazed haw the writer jumped to the conclusion that this uprising will have its impact on Pakistan too. For the Arab World, Yes, I agree but for Pakistan! I don’t.
    Yes, it has affected some ‘ retired’ minds in the shape of optimism but at the political level, we have a different canvas. I would rather appreciate the writer’s insight if he makes the predictions in the context of Pakistani culture, history, and its indigenous political landscape. Recommend

  • Zamalek Khan
    Feb 15, 2011 - 7:42PM

    It is a shame indeed that a man with the rich experience of the author has presented us with an article that is totally lacking in analytical depth. Give us more; something original and new. Retired ambassadors should refrain from writing just for the sake of getting themselves noted. Recommend

  • Alsahdiq
    Feb 15, 2011 - 10:08PM

    What next for Egypt?
    Right now as one can see from previous such revolutions in other parts of the world including two in Pakistan, it will be business as usual and people will allow another Mubarak to surface soon.
    People have been given Opium as usual and that Opium is called “Elactions”. How many elections have the people in the UK, the USA and in other countries have gone through? Very numerous. Did the people anywhere achieve their true and effective representation?
    In the USA the day people are able to achieve a State sponsored Health service liberating the US citizens from the slavery of the private Health service Mafia, the day US citizens are liberated from the slavery of the War and other numerous Mafia, one would then realise that democracy has come to the USA.
    So what will the Egyptian people achieve from those exercise in fraud called elections? Nothing that they need or want.
    The only and the best course of wisdom and action left open to the Egyptian people and to the people of the whole world is to come together to organise a party of the people, by the people, for the people.
    To do so the people must start coming together in their localities where they live very regularly to create peoples’ solidarity. Everyone must be made to realise that the way they came together in Tahreer Square, they must now start to come together in their own localities, towns and their villages etc to make their peoples’ solidarity stronger and permanent. This coming together will afford the people the rare opportunity to start to learn the intricacies and problems of civil society and how to solve these through peoples’ own initiative and co-operation.
    If the Egyptian people failed to keep the momentum achieved in Tahreer Square going in their localities, towns and villages, they will lay waste all their efforts and sacrifices made so far.Recommend

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