Friday, November 15, 2019 10:44:08 PM
Asif Haroon Raja :
Egypt's ancient history spread over 5000 years saw 30 ruling dynasties including the Pharaohs. Egypt has been ruled by despotic kings and authoritarian military rulers and has seen democracy only for one year under late Muhammad Morsi who has met a tragic end.
Rule of Gamal Nasser
The mercurial Col Gamal Abdul Nasser ended the monarchial rule of King Farouk and established a republic in Egypt following the 1952 revolution. He took over power in 1954 and ruled till his death in 1970. He gained popularity in the Arab world owing to his concept of Arab socialism. When the US and World Bank backed out of their commitment to fund Aswan Dam, Nasser hastened to nationalise Suez Canal in 1956. Withdrawal of the UK-France-Israel coalition forces without achieving their objective further popularised Nasser. After the rout suffered by Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian forces at the hands of Israeli forces in the 1967 Arab-Israel 6-day war, and loss of Golan Heights, West Bank and Sinai Peninsula to Israel, Nasser resigned. The Egyptians however brought him back to power.
Anwar Sadat rule
After the death of Nasser, he was succeeded by Vice President Anwar Sadat in 1970. He saw the Arab-Israel 1973 war in which Egypt recovered some of its pride and dented the Israeli invincibility by breaching the invincible Bar Lev line across the Suez Canal and making a bridgehead 15 km deep which couldn't be eliminated. Sharon's outflanking maneuver through the gap between two armies was more of face-saving act, which couldn't achieve much. Oil embargo by Saudi led OPEC followed by Sadat's dramatic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977 brought thaw in Israel-Egypt hostility and made it possible for Jimmy Carter to invite Sadat and Begin to Camp David on September 17, 1978 and sign an Accord. It led to historic peace treaty with Israel on March 26, 1979.
Peace with Israel helped Egypt in regaining control of oil-rich Sinai in May 1982, and re-starting oil export, but it earned the antagonism of Arab world. It was ostracised for a long time, allowing Iraq under Saddam Hussain to provide alternative leadership to the Arabs.
Peace deal with Israel had also angered the Islamists in Egypt, in spite of the fact that Sadat had loosened restrictions imposed by Nasser on Muslim Brotherhood (MB) which was outlawed in 1954.
Egypt became the 2nd largest recipient of US aid after Israel, since it provides landing facilities to US-NATO forces to deal with any trouble in the critical Middle East. US aid helped Sadat to undertake vast reforms. His open door economic policy washed away Nasser's socialism, brought prosperity and produced hundreds of billionaires, but prosperity didn't trickle down to improve the lives of the downtrodden who suffered from low wages, unemployment, high inflation and price hike.
Reason was that the country's economy remained in the grip of IMF which put a heavy burden of debts upon it and never allowed its economy to become self-reliant. IMF always insisted on removing subsidies on foodstuff, which were the only source of relief to the poor. And when he lifted them, it led to 'bread riots'. Sadat was murdered by the Islamists while he was reviewing a military parade at Cairo on October 6, 1981.
Hosni Mubarak's rule
Sadat was succeeded by former air force chief and Vice President Hosni Mubarak who ruled the country with an iron hand for next three decades. The electoral system in Egypt was so designed which enabled the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to win every election, while the parties in opposition could at best improve their seats in the legislature but could never win elections and form a government. As such Egypt never tasted democracy. MB was allowed to contest elections in 2005 as independents and they captured 88 seats of the total 454 seats.
While the seculars and Christian Coptic in Egypt have lived in harmony, Islamists have not. To earn the goodwill of Israel and USA, Hosni remained committed to Camp David Accord, closed the Rafah crossing which provide a lifeline to the people of Gaza.
After its re-admittance in Arab League in 1989, Egypt gained maximum benefits from USA in the First Gulf War in 1991 and got cleared all its debts owed to US.
Liberal lifestyle of the elites, mushrooming of casinos, night clubs and belle dances gave rise to Islamic extremism and resulted in police riots in 1986. Trend of headscarves among the conservative females intensified.
Murder of Sadat gave reason to the government to chase the Islamists, maltreat and jail them in large numbers, forcing many to flee to other countries. Mubarak regime, which had turned Egypt into a police state was never censured by the West for its human rights violations. Corruption became rampant and no work could be done without greasing the palm of the officials. Police and intelligence agencies remained wholly focused on keeping the over-populated capital city Cairo, located on the bank of River Nile, stable and secure. Other important cities under watch were Alexandra, Ismailia, Port Suez and Port Said.
Egypt kept itself away when Iraq was destroyed and captured and when its immediate neighbour Sudan was caught up in foreign inspired turmoil. It could never imagine that sooner than later, its turn will come. The Arab Spring triggered by CIA and Mossad at the start of 2011 was aimed at regime changes and to clear the path for Greater Israel. The first victim was Tunisia and next was Egypt. Other countries which got affected by Arab Spring were Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.
Deposition of Hosni Mubarak
Sudden uprising of leaderless secular/liberal forces, mostly students, cropped up in Cairo on January 25. Protests were later joined by Islamists including MB. Protests at Al- Tahrir Square were so violent that they couldn't be dispersed by the police. Ultimately, Mubarak who had been planning to hand over power to his son Gamal, was forced to resign on February 11. He abandoned his palace and shifted to Sharm el Sheikh.
Mubarak was deposed, and arrested on account of use of force on protestors, rigging and corruption, but when his trial started he was not held accountable for the killing of about 900 people during the 11-day protests. Throughout his internment, he was given all the comforts and legal cover. For six years he remained admitted in al-Mahdi military hospital and given best medical care. He was set free in March 2017, and is still alive at the age of 91 and must have watched the gory ending of Morsi.
Elections in 2012
The people sought fair and free elections and establishment of democracy. Establishment of the US tailored democracy had been the deceptive theme behind the US invasion of Iraq and Arab Spring. Freedom of Justice Party (FJP), a political wing of MB, won the elections, though with narrow simple majority and the spiky chair of President was given to little-known Muhammad Morsi. MB has remained in bad books of Saudi Arabia and UAE but has enjoyed cordial relations with Qatar.
· Second part of this article will be published tomorrow.
(Asif Haroon Raja is retired Brigadier, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, member CWC and think tank Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society, and member Council Tehreek Jawanan Pakistan; email: firstname.lastname@example.org )
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