All too familiar

Published Jul 12, 2012 03:07am

NO one should be less surprised than us Pakistanis at the unfolding political drama in Egypt. Suddenly, a nation groaning under authoritarian rule for nearly six decades is grappling with the task of self-governance. How key players behave under the circumstances is familiar to us. Generals who have tasted power have no intention of parting with it; leaders elected by the people hope legitimately to be in the saddle; the judiciary enjoys its newly gained freedom and proves itself to be a stickler for the letter of the law. On Tuesday, the Supreme Constitutional Court annulled President Mohammad Morsi’s decree calling for the assembly to meet. The newly elected assembly was dissolved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after the constitutional court declared it illegal on technical grounds. Going against what appears to be a common move by the generals and the judges, the president chose to convene the assembly.

From the very beginning President Morsi has been hamstrung by the generals’ ploys, for the dissolution of the assembly meant he would not be able to pursue his legislative agenda and lawmaking would be done by Scaf by decree. The generals, headed by Field Marshal Hussain Tantawi, have already told President Morsi it is they who will make the budget. More painfully, a new general election cannot be held unless a new constitution is made, and that should take at least another year. This means, if President Morsi still decides to stay on in the presidential palace, Egypt will for all practical purposes continue to be ruled by the military in spite of all that has happened since the anti-Mubarak uprising began in January 2011.

There are two aspects of the present situation: one is the struggle between democratic forces and a military addicted to power; the other is the political forces’ polarisation between the Islamists and secularists. The result of the run-off in the presidential election showed that a sizable section of the Egyptian people believe in a pluralistic society. Their fears that the Brotherhood may turn Egypt into a theocracy deserves to be addressed. That’s the reason why many of them are not averse to collaborating with the military. This is a big mistake, and emphasises the need for President Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party to take the secularists along in the effort to eliminate the military’s role. Egyptians should learn from Pakistan’s example and realise that the transition from authoritarianism to democracy entails decades of setbacks and sacrifices, and that it is not so easy to push a power-hungry military back to the barracks.


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Comments (9) Closed




Siddique Malik
Jul 12, 2012 10:43am
Turkey is a bad example. True, Turkey is secular, but the nature of the genesis of its secularism cannot and must not be ignored. In Turkey, the separation of mosque and state did not occur as a result of a consensus in a constitutional convention or a similar process, or as the product of constitutionally sanctioned refinement -- a mechanism that in the case of the American Constitution yielded 27 Amendments that encompass the Bill of Rights. Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
Siddique Malik
Jul 12, 2012 10:44am
My post continues: The laws under which these draconian steps are taken are a hangover from the days of the Turkish revolutionary, General Mustapha Kemal Pasha, who declared Turkey a secular republic by force, after overthrowing the Ottoman Empire that had just lost in World War I. Those who opposed him or were likely to oppose him were ruthlessly crushed. Turkish military has exacerbated suppression by overthrowing civilian governments. In 1961, Turkey’s first democratically elected prime minister, Adnan Mendres, was hanged by the military junta. Eighteen years later, Pakistani generals hanged their democratically elected prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. What a terrible example Turkey has been so far! Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
Indian
Jul 12, 2012 04:29am
Turkey is the best guide. But then again there is no Kemal Ataturk either in Egypt or in Pakistan.
Siddique Malik
Jul 12, 2012 01:15pm
Continued from my two previous posts: Turkey disallows female public officials to wear hijab. What kind of free society is that? Law-enforcement agencies are notoriously addicted to torture. Free speech is scarce. Writers and journalists are imprisoned for violating limits. Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
Siddique Malik
Jul 13, 2012 03:57pm
It's good that he frees the women from the forced veil/hijab, but how about those women who wanted to continue to wear the veil? Why were they frowned upon? What's the difference between the Taliban law that says that women must wear the veil/hijab and the Turkish (and also the French) law that say that women cannot wear it? Both these laws are anti-freedom. Kamal can hardly be an example of a pro-freedom leader. He was a dictator, period. Let’s not glorify a dictator. Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
Ijaz Ahmad
Jul 12, 2012 06:06am
Alas! But Muslims has become a nation lacking the habit of "Learning", what to talk of someone else as an example.
shahidanwar
Jul 12, 2012 06:44am
I agree with the drift of your editorial, but I am afraid: Pakistan so far doesn't offer a good example of transition; Turkey however is a success story. The very tagging of 'authoritarianism' and 'democracy' is misleading and confusing. For example, all elected PMs from Bhutto to Sharif behaved more like autocrats than democrats. Second, the broader societal context keep missing in our discourse on democracy. Feudal/hierarchical social relations remain so entrenched that even Egyptian society is socially less unequal than ours. The very parties claiming representing democracy are run by dynastic leaders. So, any authoritarian/democratic dichotomy that merely equates civilian with democracy is not helpful. Thanks to this erroneous binary we are missing other important factors, particularly performance. Turkish leaders are able to role back a military on the basis of their performance.
Cyrus Howell
Jul 12, 2012 10:17pm
This is all true. There is on wild card in the deck. Egypt has a Ministry of Internal Security (set up by Mubarak) of 350,000 police, while the army is only 400,000 by comparison. Taking into this force were Egyptian street gangs the police did not want to fight. There is some internal security! They have rapped and beaten thousands of Egyptian women. How can a woman go home and tell her family she has been raped? They don't. The security forces and all of Mubarak's friends were making money hand over fist. Their abuse of the Egyptian people was what tipped the scales toward a revolution. That and professors seeking and agitating to rewrite the Egyptian Constitution (along with the students). 83 million people and 750,000 police and military. The people believed the army were their saviors.
Cyrus Howell
Jul 12, 2012 10:44pm
Kemel, in fact, kept the Turkish bureaucrats in place, as they were the only ones who knew how to run a country. He didn't want to, but had to. There were pistols drawn and fist fights the the new congress, but very few people opposed Kemel because he was a hero. He stopped the British with the bayonet at Gallipoli ( up front and leading the Turkish charge when their ammunition ran out).. All the Turkish women fell in love with him and called him "the Father of Turks" because he brought them out from under the veil and gave them divorce rights, abolishing the harems. He did have to fight a civil war, after throwing out the Greek and Italian forces who thought they could invade a weak Turkey after the Paris peace treaties and cut a deal with the Sultan. Civil wars are not pretty. In 1936 Kemel gave Turkish women the vote. sources: (ATATURK, by Richard Kinross) and (The Volume Library. 1943)