By Raja Qaiser Ahmed, Weekly Pulse, August 26, 2013
The apparent stalemate in Egypt has taken a deadly sway. More than 500 people have lost their lives in the recent horrifying carnage. The strife between the protestors of Brotherhood and the recalcitrant Army is intensifying in the wake of undemocratic removal of President Muhammad Morsi and has been responded to with a worst act of atrocity by the Egyptian Army.
It all happened in just one year of the win of Islamists. This electoral win itself was surprising and mind-boggling in many ways, but this dismissal is even more incomprehensible as the legitimacy of dictatorship is shrinking at the international level. In history, Islamists never bagged the numerical strength which they grasped in the post-Arab Spring phase despite the fact that once they were outlawed in Egypt. Secondly, Middle East always remained under the puppet rule in the wake of great power politics due to its geo-strategic significance. Thirdly, the army’s praetorianism always remained an obstacle to charting the democratic path for the country.
The present imbroglio cannot be comprehended without glimpsing its history. Political Islam never remained striking due to persistence of dictatorial rules. The politically-motivated drive of Islam in this region, especially in Egypt, started with the incessant long hauling of Hassan al Banna who did his utmost against the governments which were enjoying unconditional outside support. For long, Egypt remained the epicenter of Pan-Arabism with Jamal Abdul Nasser as an icon. This phenomenon transmuted into Muslim nationalism in the wake of six days’ war of 1967 where the Arab world was literally made to lick the dust. As an aftermath of this win, Israel emerged as a giant which for the next coming decades remained a thorn in the flesh of the Arabs. Anwar Sadat could not follow the stardust of his predecessor and same happened with Mubarak. The coming successors were predominantly eyeing on placating the power centers with whom they were associated.
It made a stark shift from Arab nationalism to religious radicalism and that was brutally suppressed and was not allowed to extend its wings due to strangulating hold of the ruling dictatorship. However, it also gave Islamists sufficient time to take roots in the society and rally coherent forces. The apparent massive support to the Brotherhood is due to the fact that they were operating in a society that was immensely deprived, disgruntled, and resentful. Their firmness in the social and political arena earned them acceptance and legitimacy with which they managed to float through elections. More plausibly in its ostentation Egypt in recent times was entirely different polity as a consequence of mass activism which involved participation of people from all walks of life.
The ideological division in Egypt is broadly sifted into three categories. The first are secular authoritarians who dominated Egypt for long with Army’s countenance as it did very recently by ousting the elected government of Morsi. Second are the liberal seculars and this group contemporaneously was the most nagged one in the wake of thumping triumph of Islamists. Third division is of the Islamists and Salafis who stole the march with figurative successin the elections held after the fall of Mubarak.
The secular authoritarians i.e. Egyptian Army were extremely reluctant to relinquish their powers to the elected representatives, but mass congregations at Tehrir Square impelled them to review their role in Egypt, yet they were recalcitrant in getting subsided as a political entity which held the reins of power for decades. Morsi’s confrontation with the army set new fracas between two potential actors where adding factor was the existing institutional imbalance.
The win of Islamists also perturbed the liberal seculars in the country’s political sphere. They were apprehensive that the newly-elected president is embarking on the way to transform Egypt into a theocratic state. The development of amicable relationship with other Muslims countries like Iran and Turkey was annoying for the West, the liberals and Israel in particular. The emphatic presence of liberals cannot be disdained as they had grabbed support of 48.3 % Egyptians in elections.
Army is the kingmaker in Egypt and it endeavors to carry forward its extended influence whereas on the other hand Islamist protestors are demonstrating standout resilience. There are many constraints and challenges for Islamists that lie ahead and this battle is likely to turn more disastrous.
The dethronement of Brotherhood would have profound regional and trans-regional implications. A high-level of abhorrence and suspicion has gripped the countries and has made the future of democracy questionable in the region. In countries like Pakistan, it has also been abominated by the public at large and Pakistan’s Foreign Office as well.
Things are not as simple as this deadly impasse has brought many deaths and more bloodshed is raising more passion in Egypt. There are multi-faceted challenges which the country faces in the wake of this imbroglio. First, this illegitimate takeover needs to be condemned internationally and the hegemonic role of the army needs to be redefined though a bungled attempt has been made by Morsi and he paid the price for that. Secondly, negotiation processes need to be commenced between the army, the Islamists and the Liberals to craft a new future roadmap of the country.The negotiated role of army and Islamists will decide the future of the political hustings in Egypt.
Countries are never fit or unfit for democracy rather they are made fit through democracy. Countries are never run by ideologies only but right to vote out the government must lie with the masses and not with any of institution of the country. The party, ideology or a faction detrimental to a country needs to be exhausted politically and not illegally as the military did army in Egypt. Right now Egypt is sitting on a powder-keg and the slipshod international response may worsen the situation. Street agitation is likely to persist in Egypt which has become a symbol of the dynamism of Egyptians. The need of the time is to evoke a calculated approach that may drive Egypt towards stability and end this turmoil.