EDITORIAL: Farewell Friday - Saturday, February 12, 2011

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\02\12\story_12-2-2011_pg3_1

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak finally resigned on Friday after delegating the responsibility of running the country to the Egyptian Armed Forces. Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on the media. Mubarak’s decision comes a day after Mubarak’s speech for which people all over the world waited with bated breath on Thursday night. Rumours were rife before his televised address that Mubarak was going to step down. Before Mubarak’s address, US President Obama said, “We are following today’s events in Egypt very closely, and we will have more to say as this plays out. What is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold. It is a moment of transformation.” Apparently, CIA chief Leon Panetta had said there was “a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down this evening”. Unfortunately, Hosni Mubarak surprised not just Obama and Panetta but the whole world when he refused to step down till a political transition takes place in September. It was ironic to see Mubarak telling the Egyptians that “the blood of your martyrs and injured will not go in vain. I assure you that I will not relent in harshly punishing those responsible” when he himself is solely responsible for the deaths of innocent Egyptians. Mubarak further said, “We will prove that we are no one’s servants, that we do not take instructions from anyone, and that only the demands of the citizens and the pulse of the street take our decisions.” It was astounding to see the stubbornness of a dictator who had not been able to read the writing on the wall: the people of Egypt wanted him to leave. But then again, all dictators are not just delusional, they cling to power for as long as possible.

The mood in Cairo’s Tahrir Square after Mubarak’s Thursday speech was full of despair and anger. On top of that, Vice President Omar Suleiman addressed the nation and told the protestors to “go home” and “unite and look to the future”. Suleiman’s words were akin to adding insult to injury. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets all over Egypt yesterday, a day dubbed as ‘Farewell Friday’ — which proved to be just that. In the face of all the anger, Hosni Mubarak decided to flee the hotbed of Cairo and landed in the salubrious surroundings of Sharm el-Sheikh while Suleiman broke the news of Mubarak’s resignation. The Egyptian military announced on Friday that the 30-year-old state of emergency would be lifted “as soon as current circumstances end” and asked the protestors to go home and resume normal life. The military also confirmed “the need to resume orderly work in the government installations and a return to normal life, preserve the interests and property of our great people”.

Egypt’s military is one of the strongest in the Arab world. Hosni Mubarak was able to crush the voice of the Egyptian people with the help of his military and secret police. At the beginning, the military was relatively impartial between the regime and the protestors and did not take any action against the latter. It seems that the armed forces wanted to give Mubarak a safe exit. It now remains to be seen whether they will bring in a new interim leader to oversee the transition. Such a leader, to be efficacious, would have to be acceptable to all. However, if the military decides to hold on to power itself, more chaos may ensue. In such a scenario, a little spark can ignite a huge fire and if the unrest in Egypt continues, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy of descent into chaos and bloodshed. *


After a brief lull in attacks on high profile targets, Thursday’s suicide bombing in a Punjab Regiment training camp in Mardan came as a rude shock. Despite claims to the contrary, the militants have once again exhibited their capability to strike difficult targets. It is sad that apparently lax security cost us the precious lives of 31 young army recruits. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility, stating that this was done in retaliation for drone strikes. It has become clear from several incidents, including this one, that the Taliban are adapting themselves to the challenges of asymmetrical warfare. They are training and using women and children to achieve their objectives. A boy in school uniform entered the military facility and blew himself up near the parading cadets. The same day a burqa-clad would-be teenage suicide bomber was captured from Tank. Had he not been running, given the cultural sensitivities of gender segregation, it would have been difficult to spot and search him. This reveals the enormity and urgency of the task before the security forces.

The situation is made more complicated given Pakistan’s dual policy towards al Qaeda, the Pakistani brand of Taliban, and the Afghan Taliban. When certain groups are allowed to run riot in certain localities within Pakistan and then the military’s own facilities come under attack, what message does it send to the soldier fighting the war? This ambiguity is at the bottom of all our failures. It is easier to blame other countries for orchestrating these attacks on Pakistani soil than doing serious introspection to correct the wrong we are committing against our own nation. Already we are dealing with a huge crisis of internally displaced persons (IDPs), a situation that may worsen over time. Attacks such as these send out a very wrong impression about the military’s capability to deal with the situation. Not only should the distinction between good Taliban and bad Taliban end, there should be an all-out effort to eliminate this menace through proactive intelligence gathering and busting their networks from within. Security forces must take on all the groups that challenge the writ of the state. *

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