Sunday, April 13, 2008

Egypt's modern Pharaoh

The Americans say hypocrisy is nothing but prejudice with a halo. Hosni Mubarak is one such hypocrite. President of Egypt for 27 long and often brutal years, Mubarak is a present day monarch cum dictator, wrapped into one. He is America’s favorite despot in the Muslim world.

Mubarak’s reign is the third longest ever. In the entire Egyptian history only two kings have ruled for more years: Ramses II [1279–1213 BCE – rule 66 years] Yeah the same chap who was drowned in the Red Sea when he tried to chase the biblical Prophet Moses] and Muhammad 'Alī Pasha Aga [1769-1849 CE – rule 43 years] Founder of modern Egypt.

An ex-airforce guy who quickly rose in the ranks to become president of Egypt after Sadaat’s assassination, Mubarak has effectively kept Egypt under a state of perpetual emergency for the last twenty seven years [since 1981]. Under that state of emergency, the government can imprison individuals for any period of time, and for virtually no reason, thus keeping them in prisons without trials for any period

Mubarak went on to be ruthlessly brutal, crushing all dissent [with American blessings]. The largest and the most important opposition force in Egypt – Muslim Brotherhood – has been severely gagged. Its members are regularly picked up by government agents, tortured, jailed and even liquidated. It cannot for all practical purposes run for elections since the party is officially banned. Interestingly last week the Brotherhood boycotted the municipal elections after hundreds of members were arrested. Mubarak does not care two hoots. [US chose to look away: selective application of the democracy doctrine]

While Hosni was busy stacking away his ill-gotten millions, his 77 million people suffered badly. Despite subsidies that keep bread and fuel at a fraction of world levels, the cost of other essentials, such as cooking oil, fresh food and building materials, has risen faster than meagre wages. The official annual inflation rate touched 12% in February 2008, the Economist in its latest issue underlines.

US -- which wastes absolutely no time to rap other elected totalitarians like Robert Mugabe or Hugo Chavez -- continues to shower aid on their man in the middle-east. Egypt and Israel respectively remain the highest aided countries with an annual US grant, upwards of $ 2 billion and $ 3 billion. America knows that there is zero semblance of democracy in Egypt and elections are a pure sham. It also knows that Egyptians can never be empowered under a megalomaniac.

Interestingly Mubarak’s track record and corrupt image is well-chronicled. That he is likely to anoint his son Gamal as the next in line to rule Egypt, like the ancient Pharaohs, is not lost to many in the current US establishment. Yet there is a deep, dark mum. We understand the silence now, don’t we?

Mubarak wormed upto US during the first Gulf war and continues to do so. That has resulted in continued Bush assistance/help despite the despot's horrible human rights record. Anyone speaking up against Mubarak like the feisty Saad al-Din Ibrahim, a sociology professor at American University of Cairo and a critic of Mubarak’s human rights and democracy record is immediately punished. Falsely implicated, Mr Ibrahim was sentenced to jail for seven years in 2001. The charge was ridiculous and motivated on Mubarak’s orders: Failure to file a stupid form to inform the corrupt regime that his educational agency has received a foreign donation from the European Union for a voter education project. On March 18, 2003, Egypt’s Court of Cassation found Mr Ibrahim innocent of the charges.

Yet nothing will ever move Mubarak. According to ‘Reporters without Borders’, Egypt media ranks 133 out of 168 globally in terms of freedom of the press. The ranking is indicative of direct attacks on journalists and the media as well as other indirect sources of pressure against the free press. No issues. No bad press. Mubarak continues unfazed. He backs his second son Ala, who was recently accused of being favored in government tenders and privatization.

1956 was a heady time and Colonel Nasser ruled Egypt. Mubarak, still in his late 20’s acted in a movie named ‘Wadaa fel fagr’. It was a very forgettable brief role. Only a few moments. Fifty two years later the man could never grow.

Hosni Mubarak continues to be a piddly character who could never evolve.