By General Mirza Aslam Beg
It is not difficult to know what would be the ultimate out-come of the conflict in Egypt as it depends on the dialectics of the two opposing will and the stronger has already won. One represents the decades old dictorial rule of Hosni Mubarak, supported by the military and industrial group of United States of America, helping to grow a bloated Egyptian military business (Milbus), ‘big civil business mafia’, and Hosni Mubarak amassing US$ 75 billion, as the richest man in the world. The second, represents the broad masses of Egypt, led by Muslim Brotherhood, out-lawed and ruthlessly suppressed by the military dictators for over five decades. The uprising now has entered into the third week, demolishing Mobarak’s power and prestige, brick-by-brick, forcing the change, which has become inevitable.
It is led by Muslim Brotherhood founded by Hassan-al-Banna in 1920. By 1930 it launched the movement as a legalist non-violent anti-colonialist resistance against the Zionist expansionism. The objective was to establish a democratic Islamic state, based on broad-based educational and socio-economic reforms. Hassan-al-Banna was assassinated by the British in 1949, and Syed Qutub took over. He was hanged by Nasser in 1966, which led to the creation of the ‘Jehadi Wing’ and growth of militancy in the movement. Aiman-al-Zawahri, now as a leader of Muslim Brotherhood, remains a marginal figure because of his opposition to Muslim Brotherhood’s “policy of liberalism and peaceful participation in Egyptian politics.”
The main-stay of the popular movement is ‘Muslim Brotherhood,’ which provides the leadership and the organizational structure, sustaining the uprising and its growth, as more and more people are joining the movement, with its multi-faced identity. It has a ‘Jehadi’ wing as well as a ‘Militant wing’ and a large segment of youth, who value the western traditions of democratic freedom, human rights, secularism and nationalism, deeply rooted into their psyche. Yet there is no conflict within the movement led by Muslim Brotherhood, which considers itself a centrist religious mainstream political movement, consolidated by decades of confrontation and persecution. For definite, they do not want an Iranian model in Egypt.
Since 1952, Egypt has been ruled by the military and with Hosni Mubarak coming to power, the Americans formed the Nexus, with the military, which enjoys huge defense budget, and a ‘Milbus Empire’ consisting of valuable properties, big businesses, defense industries and huge national development projects. It has strong links with the political leadership in Cairo and Washington and with the defense industries cartel, retired and serving bureaucrats, serving with multi-national business tycoons and the Jewish lobby. No wonder Washington has posted to Cairo, Frank Wisner as their special envoy, for “damage control sub-contracting crisis management and providing strategic global advice, concerning business.” He is a special choice of Obama and Hillary Clinton to bail-out Mubarak and protect the interests of the Nexus. He has blocked all moves for reconciliation with the movement, promising to protect Hosni Mubarak and his huge stock of wealth, property and assets, by prolonging the confrontation, trying to wear-out the patience and stamina of the movement, which unfortunately is gaining strength with each passing day. Mubarak, an Air Force officer himself, his Vice-President, the Chief of the Defence Staff, about 50% military legislators in the House of Representatives and the military governors, together, provide the last hope to the citadel of Mubarak’s power, built over the decades.
The movement led by Muslim Brotherhood is most likely to hold-out and win. Mubarak-Military-Washington nexus will yield, to their demands, through a negotiated settlement. The first round of talks has failed. The process is to be restarted to find a way-out, before the situation gets out of control. Ultimately, it is the military, maintaining a neutral stance, will come forward, to intervene and find a negotiated settlement. Following issues are critical:
- Dictatorship and the dominant role of the military has been rejected. The military therefore has to accept a subordinating role to the future democratic set-up.
- The movement draws ‘diverse vision’ together and would desire to be a full partner in the process of change – a democratic state in the ‘Turkish style’ despite, “behind the unified, hierarchal façade, contradictory influences being at work”
- The negotiations should focus on the formation of a national government first, made responsible to frame a constitution, formulate the election modalities and hold elections within a specified time frame.
- The change should not be taken as a set-back to the ongoing process of Arab-Israel rapprochement. In fact a more realistic and popular approach would be possible now.
- It is essential to ensure Israel’s security concerns, checks on nuclear proliferation and militancy.
- A balanced US-Egypt relationship must emerge, to ensure flow of aid and assistance, as central to the negotiated settlement and for the sake of peace in the region.
- The fall of Mubarak must herald a new era of freedom and democracy, to guarantee peace within the country and the region as a whole.
- The hoax of Islamic extremism, should not blur the vision for the greater cause of the people of Egypt.
This is a revolution in the real sense, which has galvanized the Egyptian nation, demanding freedom from decades of oppressive rules of the despotic rulers. There is no turning back for them. The government has lost the contest, though temporarily shielded by the military which has shrewdly maintained its neutrality and retains the ability to mediate.
The military should mediate, not to protect its own Milbus, not to protect Hosni Mubarak’s 75 billion dollar fortune, and not to become a part of the American Game to consolidate its hold and influence over Egypt, but to establish the supremacy of the democratic will of the people of Egypt. Change is inevitable and it must come at the behest of the military, to achieve balance between various elements of national power, safeguarding vital national security interests, as is the case in Pakistan now, enabling it to overcome successive waves of crises.
P.S.As I write these lines, the military under General Tantawi, is reported to have taken over the control of the country, not in a coup, but through consensus reached with Mubarak and the Americans. The Brotherhood leadership has not been consulted, which creates doubts about the intentions of the military. Hence the masses will remain on the streets, till the military accepts a subordinating role in the future democratic set-up, and Mubarak leaves the country.
General Mirza Aslam Beg is former Chief Of Army Staff, Pakistan. After his retirement, he formed FRIENDS, a Think
Now he is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.