The people of Egypt are gradually waking up to the reality that it is one thing to drive a dictator out, even one that has been around for as long as Hosni Mubarak — 30 years — and quite a different matter to change the political system and the culture of entitlement that has grown within it. There are many constituencies that have unfairly benefitted under the old system; they are not likely to give up their privileged positions so easily, Mubarak or not.
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - The people of Egypt are gradually waking up to the reality that it is one thing to drive a dictator out, even one that has been around for as long as Hosni Mubarak — 30 years — and quite a different matter to change the political system and the culture of entitlement that has grown within it. There are many constituencies that have unfairly benefitted under the old system; they are not likely to give up their privileged positions so easily, Mubarak or not. The youth in Tahrir Square have already discovered that the military is not their friend. True, the military did not resort to force to drive them out of the square during the 18 days they were in the square. That was part of the military’s assigned role. The Americans were playing a strong role behind the scenes to make sure the outcome followed their script. Both the leaders of the protest movement — the internet savvy youth — and the military high command were getting directions from the US. There has been no revolution in Egypt however romantic it may sound; nor is there an “Arab awakening.” It was a soft military coup, engineered by the Americans because they realized a cancer-infected Mubarak would not last long. The Americans wanted to ensure power was transferred to a safe pair of hands. What safer hands could there be than the military especially with General Sami Enan as army chief at the helm who is so more pro-American than General David Petraeus? True, there have been some cosmetic concessions made by the ruling military council to the protesters. Gamal and Alaa, the two sons of Mubarak, have been arrested, interrogated and jailed in Tora Prison on the outskirts of Cairo. They were specifically questioned about their financial dealings as well as their involvement in the murder of 845 people during the protest period from January 25 to February 18. A number of former cabinet members have also been arrested. Mubarak himself is under a form of arrest although he is in hospital allegedly recuperating from a heart condition. Hospital, it seems, has become the last refuge of all scoundrels. Remember Asif Ali Zardari during his incarceration days in Pakistan? He spent much of his time “languishing” in hospital. He even obtained a certificate from two leading New York psychiatrists saying that he was mentally unfit to appear before a British court to answer charges of financial embezzlement. His mental instability may have been closer to the truth but since occupying the presidential palace he has had no health problems — physical or mental. In Egypt, meanwhile, other minor concessions have also been made to the protesters. The National Democratic Party (NDP), Mubarak’s political vehicle, was ordered disbanded on April 16 by an Egyptian court. The Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling also said the party’s “money, headquarters and buildings be seized and handed over to the government.” This, however, may turn out to be a hollow victory. There is nothing to prevent some NDP members from launching a new party. Besides, the government is dominated by serving or retired military officers that have been the principal beneficiaries of the NDP-dominated political dispensation. They have now come into possession of more assets that will surely be used to advance their interests. The ruling Military Council has already criminalized political protests and the assembly of more than five persons. Soldiers have attacked protesters with batons and guns to drive them out of Tahrir Square, all in the name of restoring “normalcy”. Two protesters were killed last month. That is precisely the kind of restrictions the Egyptian masses had come out to protest against and to abolish. They are beginning to discover that their revolution has been hijacked by the very same forces that they came out to oppose. The state of emergency in force for 30 years has still not been lifted. While there is a romantic ring to the word tahrir in Tahrir Square, meaning liberation people are beginning to discover that liberation has eluded them so far. The square has come to symbolise in the minds of people worldwide the Egyptians’ struggle to overthrow the oppressive Mubarak regime, the name has an even more unfortunate background. It was Gamal Abdel Nasser that had given the square its name after his Free Officers’ coup. How easily people are duped by slogans is one of the enduring tragedies of the Muslim world. This is much more pronounced in the Arab world where rhetoric is often seen as a substitute for action. One could go on listing difficulties confronting the people of Egypt even if the atmosphere is not as oppressive as it was during Mubarak’s regime, it would be wrong to assume that they have won freedom. The greatest challenge facing them is lack of identifiable leadership. This will continue to haunt them as they move forward in their quest for dignity and honour. Without leadership, the people will be susceptible to winds of change blowing from every direction and their movement could easily be subverted as it appears in danger of being subsumed by the vested interests of the military and their hangers-on, both civilian as well as military. Ultimately there will be a head-on clash between the interests of the privileged elites and the masses. The outcome of that struggle will determine the future direction of society in Egypt. At present the prognosis is not particularly good for the people.
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