Editorial - The game begins - Sunday, February 13, 2011

Source : http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=30969&Cat=8

One of the pictures that have gone around the world from Tahrir Square in Cairo is of a man holding up a placard saying ‘Game Over’. It is certainly over for Hosni Mubarak who threw in the towel on Friday evening and left for his palace in Sharm el-Sheikh there to contemplate his future. The Swiss reportedly swiftly froze whatever financial assets he has in their banks so his future may not be as rosy as he expected. But with the Mubarak game over, the ‘What Next’ game confronts the Egyptian people. For the last thirty years they have lived under a permanent state of emergency, were forbidden by law to gather in groups of more than five and were oppressed by a brutal and ruthless security and police apparatus of which Mubarak was the principal architect. Today, Egypt is effectively under military rule, and this with the blessing of the protesters, but the security and police machine that sustained the previous regime is still in place. Many, if not a majority, of those who work for those institutions will not have favoured the ouster of Mubarak and they are not going to change their minds – or threaten their own positions – overnight.

Apart from reversing the polarity of the national paradigm Egypt now has to address a new political future. The transition to democracy is going to be managed by the generals. The revolt – not a revolution in real terms – did not throw up a single unifying leader, but there are several from within the ranks of the people who may emerge into the political limelight with Mohamed ElBaradei being one of them. Egypt has three principal secular parties – the centre-right Wafd, the left-wing Tagammu or National Progressive Unionist Party, and the centre-left Arab Nasserist Party. It also has the largest Islamist party in the world, the Muslim Brotherhood, which currently holds 88 seats in the national assembly. The Brotherhood has said that they will not put up a presidential candidate and are committed to democratic process. How they would fare in any future election is unknown, but they are not going to lose position from the current baseline, and are not committed to the peace agreement with Israel. None of the other parties are as well-organised or funded. They are probably going to emerge as a major political force, a prospect that is likely to please neither the Americans who underwrite the Egyptian military nor the Israelis. In the coming days, Egypt will trickle back to work, commercial life will resume, the euphoria subside. Over 300 have died in the course of the revolt, and hundreds have been injured. Egypt may never be the same again whatever happens next. Neither is the Middle East or the wider Arab world. Its generals today hold a very frail newborn, and the game just over may be nothing compared to the struggle ahead.

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