For all dictators, it seems, the end is similarly ignominious. After security forces killed nearly 200 protestors in Libya, eccentric ruler Moammar Qaddafi’s son, Seif, took to the airwaves to deliver a speech blaming the uprising on drug dealers, drunk kids and agents of foreign powers. Its obliviousness recalled Hosni Mubarak’s speech the day before he was forced to resign and even Pervez Musharraf’s ramblings during the lawyers’ movement. Libya, it appears, is going to be the latest domino to fall in the Middle East and Africa after the fall of the dictatorial regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Since then, at least 100 more people have been killed and waves of Libyan diplomats have abandoned the regime.
With similar protests erupting in Bahrain and Yemen, there is no doubt that the democratisation forces are taking succour from the success of their Muslim brethren. After spending decades under autocratic rule, people have just had enough. They blame their kleptocratic rulers for their economic miseries and, more than anything, they just want their dignity back and have the right to choose their own leaders. But success in Libya is far from certain. Unlike in Egypt, the security forces seem to still be loyal to Qaddafi. Should the protests continue, a horrible massacre is possible, even likely. For this revolutionary movement to succeed, the Libyan army and police will have to decide that prolonging the rule of an autocrat is not worth the price of Libyan blood.
What has become clear over the past few weeks is that with advances in technology, dictators will find it harder than ever to hold on to power. There is no single explanation for why these protests have suddenly erupted and been so successful but there is no denying that the rise of Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera has helped open up previously hermetic societies. The use of social networking sites like Facebook has made organising demonstrations easier. Now that the people have spoken, it is up to the rest of the world to support them. Pakistan could start by renaming its cricket stadium in Lahore.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2011.
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