Sunday, January 30, 2011



Everybody wants the discredited Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is still tenaciously sticking to power, to go.

2. But nobody knows who can command the respect and confidence of the street protesters after he goes. The faces of the real leaders of the revolt are still hidden.

3.What are the characteristics of the revolution now sweeping across the Arab world?

4. Is it a genuinely democratic revolution? Many of us, including me, thought it was and still hope it is, but we --- at least I---are no longer certain it is.

5. Is it an Islamic Revolution with a democratic mask?

6. Many of us, including me, thought it was not and still hope it is not, but we--- at least I-- are no longer certain it is not.

7. Particularly after seeing the welcome that was accorded to the 69-year-old Rachid Ghannouchi, the Islamist leader of Tunisia, who returned to Tunisia this week-end after having lived in political exile in Europe for nearly 22 years. Thousands of people -- it is a large number for Tunisia--- welcomed him at the Tunis airport. No political ambition, he proclaimed, but nobody in Tunisia takes his proclamation seriously.

8. The democrats and secularists in Tunisia, who are concerned over his return, were also at the airport to caution him to behave and not to try to hijack the Jasmine revolution after it has succeeded and turn its white colour into green.

9. They shouted: " "No Islamism, no theocracy, no Sharia and no stupidity! " The number of people whom they could mobilise was very small. Some reports say less than a hundred.

10. Is it a harbinger of an emerging struggle between democrats and Islamists---with the Islamists ultimately expropriating the gains of the revolution and imposing an Islamic rule instead of the democratic rule hoped for by the protesters and for which many of them sacrificed their lives?

11. This is not a far-fetched scenario. It happened in Iran post-1979. The children of what seemed a democratic revolution in the beginning were devoured by the Islamists after they came to power with their help and an Islamic rule was imposed on Iran.

12. As the cliche goes, every revolution begins with noble intentions and ends up by devouring its own children.

13.What happened in Iran post-1979 could happen in Tunisia, Egypt and the rest of the Arab world in the months to come.

14. Irrespective of whether Mubarak lasts in power for a few more hours, a few more days or a few more months, he is already passee. He is already on his way to the dustbin of history.

15. How to ensure that it is democracy and religious and political moderation that will emerge as the ultimate victor? That is a question to be tackled by the people of these countries. The international community will have little role in deciding the future shape of things to come in these countries. Its options are very limited. One thing it can and should do is to refrain from supporting elements which stand discredited and which have become the anathema of the people. And hope for the best, while mentally preparing itself for less than the best. (31-1-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )


Karthik Kumar said...

Absolutely spot on about Iran, and it's recurring(?) in Tunisia. If Islamists seize power around Israel, it's bye bye Peace Process for sure. Jordan and Turkey somewhat not in the picture right now, but who knows.

Esoteric said...

Egypt should adopt the Indonesia political and economic model.Indonesia has 90% Muslims to Indonesia's 85%,in other words have large minorities.Both countries are more moderate than Saudi Kingdom or Iran.Indonesia itself was ruled through the military for 30 years till 1998.Post 1998,once Suharto resigned Indonesia has managed to thrive as a democracy despite insurgencies and Islamic radicalisation of some people and such groupings.Indonesia has 3 times the population of Egypt and about 4 times the GDP;but Per Capita Income is quite comparable.But the poor Human development in Egypt which makes it difficult to build a Middle class (ie educated) that not only rejects radical Islam but also views West in a positive light.

Indonesia remains a close partner of the US and Egypt will have to do the same to stop Islamists from coming to power.Mubaraks is viewed as a US man on the street and this is a complication.

ElBaradei has emerged as a compromise figure,even though Military will be the real power centre.The protests can be controlled if immediate steps are taken against corruption and emergency rules are taken back to allow the Egyptian media to be free again.Yes,Mubarak is history but might be around to shaperone Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

The longer term danger is that if corrective actions are not taken,MB might take over power in due course over next 18 months.