Lessons from Egypt


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First Published in The Daily Times

الهلال مع الصليب
Photo Courtesy: Hossam el-Hamalawy

The idea of revolution and bringing about a change comes with an overwhelming sense of motivation, a feeling that the entire world stands united in that moment of fervour. This was indeed witnessed when thousands of Egyptians took to the streets one Tuesday morning, calling for an end to over three decades of dictatorship.

While the courage of the people of Egypt had us all mesmerised, many hinted hopes for a similar protest of their own — in Pakistan. Messages posted on social networking websites along with pictures and videos from Egypt asked: “When will Pakistan have this moment?” I am afraid many of us are asking the wrong questions. Those of us who call for a similar protest here need to be reminded that we currently have a democratic government in place.

If we are, however, unhappy with the government’s policies or lack of governance, we should be pushing our government to do its job better rather than dreaming about toppling the system. In fact, in the current situation, a civil disobedience movement could cause irreparable damage. It should be clear that there is a great difference between the situation in Pakistan and that in Egypt. The people of Egypt had decided to put an end to over three decades of dictatorship to reclaim their democratic rights. Meanwhile, we need to work on deepening the democratic culture and bringing about social reforms.

Having said that, I agree that there are lessons to be learnt from the uprising in Egypt. Apart from the images of brave protestors clashing with the regime were images that need to be replicated not only in Pakistan but also across the world. Those were images from protests after the Alexandria Church bombings were Muslims formed human chains to shield Christian worshippers and, on Friday night, Christian Egyptians did the same as Muslims prayed amid the protests. These are all lessons on solidarity, strength and co-existence.

Needless to say, the people of Egypt did not allow their spirits to be dampened by incidents of looting. Despite clashes and raging sentiments, many formed human chains to protect public property from looting and destruction. Despite fire being metres away, the National Museum was shielded from all kinds of damage. The people were being vigilant even on a day of anger.

The morning after the protests saw people on the streets cleaning up the mess caused by the clashes, civilians started to manage traffic flow in the absence of traffic police and much more.

These are the lessons that we should be learning from the brave people of Egypt. Lessons of solidarity, bravery, caution and, most importantly, a defined strategy that calls for a mass mobilisation of people demanding better governance, law and order, paving the way for a public discourse and social reform.

As civilians, our role is to ensure that we make our leaders perform better by working with them. Instead of clashing with state institutions, we should be calling for bridging gaps between our politicians, policy makers and key players. Our current problems are deeply polarised and overshadowed by political and religious rhetoric. It is about time we get real about our economy. Poverty elimination, labour rights, promoting entrepreneurship and better governance are our most pressing issues and genuine demands that need to be met by the state.

We need to have faith in our government and institutions and ensure that they do their job. For that we must work towards strengthening them and asking for a stance against factors that weaken the writ of the state. Our problems will need a long time to resolve, but we must continue to work on them. The only way forward is to strategise, be more tolerant and to unite irrespective of faith, ethnicity and political affiliations. For that we need to evolve not revolt.

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3 thoughts on “Lessons from Egypt

  1. It’s strange how the human mind works and how each individual looks at the same picture differently. I like the way you’re thinking here.

    I agree with you that we should not hope for a revolution here in Pakistan, of course because we already have a democratic govt and we can VOTE to bring the person of our choice, but I also think that we shouldn’t have the revolution because of its after effects like lawlessness that already prevails, lack of unity and some others reasons which you can read here in “The other side of revolution” http://yello.pk/blog/sabafk/the-other-side-egyptian-revolution/30088

    What you are talking about here is how things SHOULD be but what I have talked about and why I think a revolution like Egypt’s won’t work here is because what the real scenario is right NOW.

    Would be waiting for what you think.

  2. Good points Sana. It surprised me when pakistanis started talking of revolution when we already have a democratic government. What would a revolution replace it with? Dictatorship or a theocrasy? Not a good idea at all for a economic development or a tolerant society.

    What Egptians did was amazing. The Koptic-Muslim alliance of common force against dictatorship and violence was a setback for hardline islamic extremists and their likeminded christian extremists (who both dream of a civilisation war). Pakistan surely need to learn from this. Or rather be heard

    Because such solidarity exists in our society. The media, political leaders or clerics do not put such examples that high. Especially the new debate programs about current affairs have responsibility to show some skills and put forth reasonable guests.

    I wrote a piece on the latter part… a bit harsh, but worth sharing.
    http://usmanasif.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/walk-the-walk/

    best wishes from Oslo

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