Sunday, June 3, 2012

Daily Times Editorial June 4, 2012

Hosni Mubarak’s day in court Former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak has been handed down a life sentence along with his former interior minister Habib al-Adly for the killing of 225 protestors and wounding more than 1,800 during the movement for his ouster in January 2011. Six co-accused security commanders were acquitted for lack of evidence. The verdict immediately drew thousands of protestors into the streets. Some of them demanded Mubarak’s execution, others feared weaknesses in the case as reflected finally in the verdict could let Mubarak off on appeal. The verdict comes at an especially fraught time for Egypt, just two weeks before a crucial run-off election for president, in which the Egyptian voters have been left with a Hobson’s choice between the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Muhammad Mursi, who came in first in the first round, and second placed former prime minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq. Critics of the verdict argue that it proves the old order is still in place. The military, which has been in power since the coup of 1952, is still calling the shots. Entrenched in power for decades, the military has acquired a military-industrial-business complex that it will not surrender easily. Apart from fears of the sentence being overturned on appeal, critics also question why the former president has not been held accountable for the years of repression against dissidents, the police state, and corruption. Mubarak’s two sons have been acquitted of corruption charges because of the statute of limitations and Mubarak himself has been acquitted in one corruption case because of lack of evidence. The former president has a great deal to answer for during the 30 years he was in absolute power, courtesy the army and in the aftermath of Sadat’s assassination. The military courts that tried and sentenced thousands of political opponents of the regime in the 1980s and 1990s, the ‘renditions’ in collaboration with US President Bush in the war on terror, the systematic use of torture and rape as instruments for breaking the will of opponents, all these crimes have been left on the shelf and the case against him has been confined to the repression of the ‘Tahrir Square’ protestors. That does not necessarily mean that none of this will come out in the wash eventually. After the political transition to an elected president (most likely to be the front runner from the Muslim Brotherhood), who knows what other accountability processes may kick in? At this point, it may be salutary to revisit the Arab Spring, on which many hopes resided for a new state and society to emerge from the sacrifices of citizens in removing the dictator. It would not be out of place to argue that the ‘Spring’ was overhyped and expectations as to its outcome overly optimistic. In the flush of victory against Mubarak, this heightened sense of expectation, especially given the mood on the street, was understandable. However, what cooler minds were arguing even then was that the entrenched military would not be easy to displace and in fact Mubarak would be sacrificed by it precisely in order to keep its grip on power. As to the movement itself, the liberals and left were inherently coming to political agitation spontaneously and without the backing of a party organisation, unlike the battle hardened Muslim Brotherhood. The first attempts to give the disparate forces of the left-liberals a political identity resulted in splits, reflected also in the first round of the presidential election. It is to be noted that in spite of the left-liberal vote being spilt amongst various candidates, a socialist, Hamdeen Sabahi, still managed to come third. The highly organised and disciplined Muslim Brotherhood, veteran of decades of struggle, open and underground, would always have been a formidable foe, more so in the face of a scattered and divided rival camp of the real movers of the revolution. Does Mubarak’s day in court mean the day of the dictator is over? Conceptually, yes, history has delivered its verdict. However, in real terms and on the ground, the old adage that “He may be a b*****d, but at least he’s our b*****d” still informs the contradictory stances of the great powers, paramount amongst them the US. Only a real people’s revolution that sweeps away the old order completely can satisfy the inherent aspirations of the Arab Spring and masses. Until then, the struggle for a just democratic society continues, with its twists and turns, triumphs and disappointments.

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