Egyptian independence - Ahmed Quraishiv - Monday, February 14, 2011

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The most remarkable aspect of the Egyptian regime is that it has managed peace with Israel and relations with the United States for a quarter of a century without allowing either one of them to meddle in Egyptian internal affairs. Yes, the Egyptian intelligence cooperated with CIA-run torture programmes known as ‘rendition’ after 9/11. But despite being the second largest recipient of American aid after Israel, for three decades Egypt under Hosni Mubarak and its military foiled American efforts to reshape Egyptian politics and refused to oblige the Americans on plans to turn the Egyptian army into a glorified regional police force for the US military.

The only leverage the Egyptians had over the US was their knowledge that Washington needs Egypt to protect Israel’s western flank, and to meet Israel’s domestic energy needs from Sinai’s oil and gas reserves at preferential rates. Egypt delivered on this count, took the aid money but thwarted every American effort to establish itself inside Cairo’s power corridors. This is a remarkable achievement. For two decades, Pakistan has been unable to match this. American aid to Pakistan has been far below what the country has lost just in the past eight years – up to US$ 64 billion in revenue and opportunity losses, not to account for the price paid by Pakistan for America’s Afghan jihad. And yet Pakistan’s political and military ruling elites have felt they are obliged to allow Washington to shape Pakistan’s political governments and policy options. The biggest example of this is the 2007 deal that gave birth to the incumbent coalition government in Islamabad.

Mubarak is supposed to be a bigger foreign stooge than our own variety and yet, he never allowed foreign meddling in his country, not even in his defeat, declining all ideas and plans for him to move to Germany or Saudi Arabia. He moved to a house in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. So far, he has stuck to his vow that he will die and be buried in Egypt and that he won’t escape for safety in some haven in Jeddah, Dubai, London or New York.

For Pakistan’s ruling elite, these cities have become alternate capitals of Pakistan.

Egypt was taking American aid but refused to accept American meddling. In 2008, then US Central Command Chief David Petraeus pressed the Egyptian army to transform itself into a counterterrorism force so the US could use it for firefighting in the region. The new Egyptian strongman Field Marshal Hussain Tantawi along with Mubarak and other generals refused to play ball. Despite massive corruption, the Egyptian ruling elite never produced proxies who serve Washington and then escape to greener pastures on the American lecture circuit.

When President George W. Bush rolled out his democracy agenda in the Middle East after 9/11, Mubarak was instrumental in failing it (along with the Saudis). He just won’t have it. Mubarak refused to allow the Americans to establish direct contact with Egyptian politicians or engineer any kind of internal change.

Egypt made peace with Israel but only because Egyptian nationalists were disappointed at what they saw as stabs in the back by Arabs and Muslims (for example, rich Arabs refused to bail out the Egyptian economy enough despite the fact that Egypt fought Israel in four wars on behalf of all Arabs. Egypt was also shocked to see Pakistan in 1956 supporting the British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt, and harbored similar grievances against Turkey and Iran.) All of this shaped the psyche of the Egyptian ruling-elite and intelligentsia and helped push Egypt toward peace with Israel under American guarantees.

There were many occasions when there were frictions between Cairo and Washington over one thing or the other and the mainstream US media was unleashed - as usual – to ridicule, harass or intimidate Mubarak and Egypt. But Mubarak won’t have any of it. The point is not to glorify Mubarak. The point is to highlight the Egyptian elite’s sense of independence and pride even when they were corrupt and seen by their own people as pro-Israel touts.

Compare that to Pakistan. Every regime, from Benazir Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif to Pervez Musharraf to Asif Zardari, has handed over Pakistani citizens to foreign governments without an iota of national pride.

Some of them moved to Jeddah, Dubai, London and New York. Most of them have their wealth and properties abroad. Mr Musharraf introduced a new element to this shameful history when he launched Pakistan’s first political party on foreign soil, in London and Dubai. And now, most Pakistani politicians consider it kosher to conduct important political meetings outside Pakistan. Mr Zardari has introduced another first: high-level meetings with foreign governments that relevant Pakistani government departments, like the Foreign Office, know nothing about. We have ambassadors and national security advisers who are appointed to protect the interests of foreign governments.

Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian regime made peace with Israel but never allowed any foreign power to come and abuse Egyptians or bomb them using CIA drones. This honour exclusively belongs to Pakistan’s ruling elite.

The writer works for Geo television. Email:

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