Tuesday April 23, 2024

A lesson

Egypt is a lesson for Pakistan in how the combination of unbridled, destructive politics and foreign

By Ahmed Quraishi
July 13, 2013
Egypt is a lesson for Pakistan in how the combination of unbridled, destructive politics and foreign meddling can destroy a strong state in a short time.
Key Egyptian political players have used religion to divide their nation and dangerously push it closer to civil war. The reality is that the Muslim Brotherhood – a seasoned political party – and the country's military were on the same page on major issues like Israel, Syria and Iran.
What did Morsi in is his failure of governance. He turned into a civilian dictator, failed to unite the nation after elections, went after political opponents too early, and forced the military and judiciary to intervene and facilitate a new civilian government.
There is no evidence there was any religious-secular tension at the top of the Egyptian government under (former president) Morsi. He maintained a workable cold peace with Israel, controlled Hamas in the Gaza Strip and became the only Arab or Muslim country to formally declare jihad in Syria against Bashar al-Assad. During Morsi's rule Israel's Gaza front was the quietest it had been in years.
Far from upsetting the US and the west, Morsi and his party had upset the traditionally strong ties between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh relied on Egypt to balance relations with Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Saudis were angry at Washington for abandoning Mubarak, and watched with unease as Qatar, the wily American ally in the Gulf, cultivated strong ties with Muslim Brotherhood leaderships in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and now Egypt.
Adding fuel to the fire, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood sent signals to the Saudis that Egypt under the Brotherhood might be forced to take Iranian aid if Saudi Arabia failed to offer a generous bailout package to the Morsi government. Later, the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia busted a cell that revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood planning pro-democracy unrest in the three Gulf states.
In effect, the Egyptian military was aligned with the Saudis, the UAE and Kuwait against President Morsi – his strong support coming from Qatar. Anti-Morsi protesters have raised banners condemning Anne W Patterson, the current US ambassador in Cairo, for supporting Morsi.
The Egyptian coup against Morsi increasingly looks inspired by Gulf interests. The Brotherhood's reaction, turning the issue into a battle between Islam and secularism, is a counter-coup. This dangerous mix of exploiting religion with strong foreign political meddling is guaranteed to destabilise Egypt beyond the point of return, and turn it into another Libya or Iraq.
For all his other failings, Mubarak jealously guarded Egyptian stability for three decades against foreign meddling. He staunchly prevented Washington, Riyadh, Tel Aviv and Tehran from cultivating political influence in his country. What he failed to do was create an indigenous Egyptian political class that could continue that policy once he was gone.
By 2007, we in Pakistan were dangerously close to civil war and internal collapse because of a similar mix of destructive domestic politics and blunt foreign meddling. Thanks to cooler heads, we managed to evade the worst. But we are not out of danger yet.
Egypt is a lesson in the need to emphasise positive, constructive politics and good governance, and avoid the use of religion (or linguistic/provincial politics, in our case) to divide the nation. We need a law that curbs politicians and political parties from using religion, sect, province or language as tools against political opponents. Pakistani politics should be redesigned to focus on development and growth, and not on amplifying social and religious divisions.
Foreign political meddling is another monster that needs to be tamed. Putin's first step after seizing power in Russia in 1999 was to end foreign meddling in Russian politics and media to stabilise the country. Egypt is suffering today because democracy is being manipulated by foreign players.
In Pakistan, we have managed to contain foreign meddling, but we lack a legal structure in place to formally prevent local and foreign actors from hijacking our politics and democracy.