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Rise of the new pharaoh



Egypt has come full circle with the swearing-in of former army chief Abdel Fattah Al Sisi as president. Those who fought for a free Egypt have been silenced. One of the Arab world's most populous countries and certainly one of Africa's most dynamic, Egypt is now caught in its own trap. The people who forced Hosni Mubarak out of power in the Arab Spring have now been silenced. In a turnaround of over two years, the order of Mubarak is back.

Thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, a party which won Egypt's first free and fair elections, held in 2012, have been jailed. Many face the death sentence as a new pharaoh makes his mark in Cairo.

I wonder what fate awaits former president Morsi. He was overthrown within months of assuming office. His crime was that he started a series of reforms that would have taken power away from that country's powerful establishment.

The thousands of students and young professionals who converged at Tahrir Square in 2011 to oust Mubarak from office are now in hiding.

Egyptians are very proud of their heritage. They see themselves as the elite of the Arab world. I recall a conversation I had with a Cairo-based academic. I expressed concern over the overthrow of Morsi what the future held for Arab world's most populous country.

She seemed unconcerned. For her, removal of Morsi was a bigger achievement. She even said that unlike Pakistan, where people were mostly fundamentalists as well as quarrelsome, Egyptians were "much more sophisticated" about such things. She insisted that Morsi's reforms were more dangerous to her country. All this has a familiar ring to it.

In truth, Morsi could do little to change things. He lacked control of the army, police, judiciary, and bureaucracy, and thus had no opportunity to create an authoritarian state. But what he did was more than enough it seems.

Sisi and his confederates moved quickly to seize power. To discredit Morsi, the police faded from the streets creating chaos. Businessmen created artificial shortages. And demonstrations were encouraged to justify the intervention by the military.

One charge against Morsi was incitement to murder because the Brotherhood sought to protect the presidential palace from protestors — after the police refused to defend the building. The regime also contended that the former president had insulted the Mubarak-dominated judiciary.

Morsi has been charged with having escaped from prison even as protestors were overthrowing the Mubarak dictatorship. Morsi also was cited for having "opened channels of communication with the West via Turkey and Qatar."

There is much common between Egypt and Pakistan. Both countries are populous and have a checkered history of military rule. Corruption is rife and governments have not delivered. Both have been American client states. And both have seen popularly elected politicians ousted from power.

Some analysts compare Musharraf to Sisi. But unlike Musharraf, Sisi killed hundreds or more in the August crackdown in Cairo — probably more than the number killed in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Since then, many more have died and been arrested.

Sisi has recreated Mubarak's secret police, reinstituted military trials, enacted strict new restrictions on demonstrations, arrested journalists, deployed private armies against Morsi supporters as well as regime critics and prosecuted hundreds.

In November, 21 women were sentenced to up to 11 years in prison for protesting Morsi's trial. Seven were under 18. After widespread public outrage, they were freed on appeal. But the same month the interim government decreed it could ban almost any demonstration.

This year, three pro-democracy activists involved in the 2011 revolution were sentenced to three years each in prison for violating the repressive new rules. The press has been a special target. The regime has so far closed four television stations.

Comedian Bassem Youssef's television show was banned after he targeted the general. Newscaster Shahira Amin was dismissed from her position for implying the coup was a coup.

Overall, human rights activists say the situation is worse than under Mubarak. The new constitution maintains the military's privileged status and protects state institutions from outside monitoring.

When the same liberals who earlier supported the military take-over started to object to his policies, the general arrested them. As Pakistanis, should we remain silent?

The Express Tribune


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true, very true, but now secular, leftist, liberal ( !) silent, why? in the long run they will victim by military, must