General (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg
The “evil nexus of three As and O” struck Egypt and overthrew the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi. We in Pakistan have had suffered such afflictions in the past and therefore our sense of loss for democracy in Egypt is greater. The “evil nexus of three As and O” stand for America, army, Adlia (judiciary) and O for the opportunists of sorts. What makes the Egyptian coup more intriguing is that apart from the United States, some Middle Eastern countries appear involved in the assault on the nascent democracy. In Pakistan, we suffered five years of worst corruption, bad governance and downward economic drift, yet we did not loose patience and transfer of power took place, promising a stable democracy.
What happened in Egypt is rather intriguing and demands a careful evaluation to know as to what precipitated military intervention, which Obama called “a revolution” and Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were the first to welcome General Fateh for his brave act. What was Morsi’s fault, to encourage the internal and external forces to precipitate the military coup, is the moot question. Most of the actions President Morsi took after coming to power are quite realistic and pragmatic. Democratic norms were taking roots under the banner of the revolutionary Ikhwan:
- Despite enjoying two-third majority in the house, Morsi elected the vice president, the prime minister and most of the ministers from parties other than Ikhwan.
- Through skillful diplomatic maneuvers, he brought Israel on the negotiation table to seek peace with the Palestinians and opened the Fateh Gate to Gaza, closed since 2006.
- Under the Camp David Accord, Egypt was selling Sinai gas to Israel at a throwaway price. Morsi increased the price to the current market price level. He also cancelled the clauses of the accord considered unfavorable to Egypt.
- He removed all restrictions on free movement of citizens of Libya and Sudan and the accord was ready to be signed, permitting movement without visa between these countries.
- He reached out to Iran and Turkey and established strong economic ties with those countries. His long-term objective was to form the Regional Economic Cooperation (REC) comprising Egypt, Turkey and Iran. Qatar doled out $7 billion to support the plan.
- He entered into contract with Sudan and started developing millions of acres of the Sudanese land for agricultural purposes.
- With China, he signed long-term contracts involving billions of dollars of investment for various development projects.
- Morsi had the inner desire to introduce Shariah in the country, “in order to fall in line with Shariah compliant allies of USA in the region.”
- He appointed General Fateh as the army chief, who was a member of Ikhwan and a maulavi [cleric] type, like late General Ziaul Haq, who was appointed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In making this choice, Morsi erred like Bhutto and is at the receiving end now.
Except for the appointment of the chief of army staff, Morsi made no other mistake because he acted in the best interest of Egypt. Yet “he touched the very sensitive cord of some of his close neighbors and the Untied States”:
- The United States felt the need for immediate corrective measure because there was a grave threat to their interests in the region and to the interests and security of Israel, if the REC between Egypt, Turkey and Iran became a reality. The REC also could defeat the US plan of demonizing Iran in order to sell military hardware worth over $170 billion to the frightened Sunni-majority countries in the region. This military hardware has already been used in Bahrain and now is flowing into Syria.
- Some important countries of the Middle East, which had been acting as the ‘main arbiter’ in the region, found their position compromised with the likely emergence of the REC. Promptly, Qatar was given the lesson in good behavior by staging a palace revolt, forcing the emir to abdicate in favor of his son. Thus, the GCC unity was restored.
- “The State Department bankrolled key figures involved in protests to topple President Morsi, funded tens of thousands of dollars through democracy-building programs to opposition figures, thus violating both Egyptian and US laws.” — (Julian Pecquet, Daily The Hill).
- Obama declared “it is a revolution and not a coup.” General Fateh called the military intervention “a successful political-ideological struggle over the country’s future, merely enforcing the will of the people.” (One can draw an analogy from the oath of Pakistan military: “Uphold the Constitution of Pakistan, which embodies the will of the people.” Our army chief, therefore, has to be apolitical to perform this task. General Fateh perforce turned political and upturned the political cart.)
- Tony Blair declared: “We are on your side, and your allies, prepared to pay the price, to be there with you.”
- The Islamists across the Arab world are drawing from events in Egypt because Ikhwan draws its ethos from Silsila-e-Qadria of the Islamic school of thought, which extends far beyond to Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
- The army gambled, hoping that it would soon control the country, but now it has a major fight on its hands with 30 political parties supporting Morsi. Thus, “Egypt is stuck in a historical trap. It is a post-colonial conundrum that has stymied the hopes of countries for political Islam from Egypt to Pakistan to Indonesia.” — (Peter Propham, The Independent).
- The followers of Morsi have declared “we will continue to resist. We are free revolutionaries and we will continue our journey.” Egypt is now back under the same military that killed its own citizens for 18 months, it was in-charge after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. The struggle for power will continue.
The military takeover in Egypt has caused a dangerous drift. It brings into sharp focus the politico-ideological conflict between the Islamists and the liberals/secularists from Egypt to Turkey to Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Pakistan, the people averted such a drift through the power of the ballot and the critical balance is now being maintained by the same old power brokers, namely the judiciary, the armed forces and the political forces divided between the moderates, the secularists and the Islamists. The western media is trying to project that the experiment of “political Islam” in Egypt has failed, without giving a fair chance to it. And if the experiment fails, the United States, European Union and the power brokers of the Middle East would be blamed for abetting military intervention, “to uphold the constitution, which embodies the will of the people”, by the military, who are not capable of performing this task.
The Ikhwan have a long history of confrontation, starting with Nasser from 1954, until 1970 and also have suffered three decades of brutality under Hosni Mubarak. Ultimately, they emerged successful in the 2012 general elections. Now they face General Fateh who possibly “cannot succeed where the charismatic Nasser failed. General Fateh cannot solve the age-old dreams of Egypt that nourish political Islam.” The Ikhwan have time on their side. They are at ease with themselves like the Taliban of Afghanistan and are sure “to win through their peaceful protests against the military,” as their chantings grow louder: حسبی اللھ و نعم الوکیل