Feb 12, 2011

Storm in the desert

Iftekhar A Khan
As Hosni Mubarak employs his repressive security apparatus to fight a rearguard battle against his own people, his tyrannical reign by all reckoning is breathing its last. Egyptians are emerging out of the Pharaoh’s three decades of oppressive and corrupt rule. So far, the Egyptian army hasn’t fired upon the protesters while Mubarak’s elite security force in black uniform has killed hundreds of them. As Mubarak is about to become a footnote in history, Mohamed ElBaradei has hopped from his home in Vienna to Cairo as a presidential hopeful. He has been addressing public rallies, yet he pretends to be a reluctant candidate for the presidency following Mubarak’s fall. The countdown for Mubarak began in Tunisia, not Egypt.

Since the Egyptians have taken their destiny into their own hands, they know better whom to choose as their new president and they wouldn’t want to replace one asset of the imperialists with another by voting for ElBaradei or torturer-in-chief Gen Omar Suleiman. Mubarak was quick to appoint Suleiman vice president to negotiate between the protesters and the government. If the 75-years-old spy chief succeeds in placating or dividing the masses gunning for Mubarak, he would achieve two objectives. First, buy time to lower the political temperature, enabling Mubarak to go behind the scene, lie low, and not need Saudi hospitality and a palace in Jeddah next to Ben Ali’s; second, offer himself as Mubarak’s substitute and continue to serve US interests in the region.

But let’s not forget: it’s a revolution unfolding and decades of pent up public fury is erupting in Egypt. People will not accept Suleiman as Mubarak’s replacement, as desired by the US. That would be akin to accepting Gestapo chief Heinrich Mueller in place of Hitler. Gen Suleiman headed the largest interrogation citadel in the Middle East where political prisoners were routinely tortured. Even the CIA used the facility for its rendition programme. Marjorie Cohn, professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, writes about a former CIA agent who commented: “If you want a serious interrogation, you send prisoners to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want them to disappear – never to see them again – you send them to Egypt.” Although Egypt isn’t the only country famous for the “disappearing act”; it has a few more contenders.

People revolt not only against their rulers but also against the foreign backers of the rulers. Whatever the colour or tag assigned to a revolution, “saffron” in Burma, “green” in Iran, “orange” in Ukraine, “rose” in Georgia and “jasmine” in Tunisia, the bottom line is public anger against its rapacious and tyrannical rulers. Yesterday it was Tunisia, today it’s Egypt, and tomorrow it could be Yemen and Algeria, and maybe Jordan, Syria and Morocco. The kings, emirs, and their sons rule these countries as their personal fiefdoms and inheritance. Western stooge Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, has appointed his son and heir apparent, Brig Gen Ahmed Saleh, as head of the presidential bodyguards.

The Moroccan king has already despatched his troops to the main cities of the country. He fears an uprising could be still more serious than what took place in Tunisia. Morocco too has the distinction of having detention centres for the CIA’s rendition programmes. Why such notorious black holes are located in the Muslim countries remains an enigma. Meanwhile, the king has a palace ready for him in France.

However, rumblings of the anger and discontent are felt in most Muslim countries, where dictators supported by foreign powers hold their peoples in bondage, particularly where the disparity between the ruling oligarchs and the ruled is in sharp contrast. Pakistan is one such country. It sits on the powder keg, even though Prime Minister Gilani thinks otherwise and dismisses the notion out of hand. What’s his contention? He considers the democratic institutions in tact and functional, and hence these would serve as an outlet for public wrath. Not true. The dynamics of revolution are in place in Pakistan, but there’s a problem. No one is ready to be the standard-bearer yet. Imran Khan, what about you? Do you think Pakistanis are treated less shabbily than Egyptians and Tunisians?

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