I have seen so many people talking about Tunisia in Pakistan, people getting excited and thinking this is it, they are going to do the same. It think these people are like those who see an action flick and thinking you could do the stunts too. But what made people in Tunisia, Algeria and later Egypt tick, why they decided to take matters into their hands? Who facilitated it and why it was possible for some small isolated incident to take a global audience. There are some interesting characters in this tale of uprising that needs to be taken into account very seriously.
There is one mouthpiece of this uprising and that is a news network based in the tiny Gulf state of Qatar, Aljazeera. Aljazeera has been the voice of all those who stood up against their regimes in Tunisia or Egypt. It holds the pulse of Arab masses in many ways and is relaying their thoughts as they are coming out.
It was Al Jazeera who helped the uprising in Tunisia with extensive and aggressive reports coming out from the heart of uprising. Aljazeera has been aggressively pushing the view of unhappy Arabs throughout its inception 15 years ago. It had a striking difference from conventional Arab media run and controlled by regimes. It had controversial talk shows where noisy arguments were seen from rival factions. It provided space to anyone who wanted to speak and make his or her voices heard.
A lot of moderate forces in Middle East and even US accuse Aljazeera of many things; some accuse it of incitement against them, while many accuse it of giving voice to terrorists. Aljazeera famously aired Osama bin Laden’s videos and messages. So this whole uprising or sense of newfound freedom is a gift of Aljazeera which in many ways embodies what journalism should be like. Putting up a mirror out there and reflect what ever you see. This moment in history belongs to Aljazeera in so many obvious ways. Because of what it did for these oppressed and unheard people. Aljazeera has given a narrative to the stories of millions of people around the world especially in MENA (Middle East & North Africa) region. Its tagline says it all, the view/opinion and the other view/opinion in Arabic.
It would be harsh to say that Aljazeera created these events, or shaped them in any way, but it is also wrong to take AlJazeera’s role out of this process. AlJazeera faces many accusations of tailoring its coverage to support Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza against their Lebanese and Palestinian rivals. Some accuse it of taking side and crossing the line of neutrality, at different occasions especially in Tunisia, which a news organisation must not do.
Within last few weeks Aljazeera opened several battle fronts simultaneously and all in MENA region. First the Tunisian uprising where it was accused of being a biased one sided storyteller. Then release of several documents leaked from the Palestinian Authorities revealing the detailed inside story of the peace process and the betrayal by Mahmoud Abbas and his negotiators. The final moment was coverage of Egypt protests, which Aljazeera picked slowly as many believe it bowed to the pressure from Amir of Qatar to go soft on Egypt. Aljazeera was never a favourite of Hosni Mubarak the embattled Egyptian president who once visited its head offices in Qatar out of extreme curiosity.
All the Palestinian authority seniors including Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly accused Al Jazeera of distorting his positions, inciting violence and trying to destroy him politically. Some very angry Palestinians turned up at the doors of Aljazeera’s offices in Ramallah the stronghold Palestinian ruling Fatah movement. While in Lebanon, people supporting the outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, burnt down an Al Jazeera van. This not the first time Aljazeera is facing this sort of anger, it has endured such treatment in Baghdad and Kabul where their office was attacked by US forces. They have lost some crewmembers too.
What some observers are seeing in this whole picture is Al Jazeera’s tilt or sympathy towards Islamists. It could be due to the fact that Arab masses are more inclined towards these forces while they are fed up with their so-called moderate and pro west pro US governments. A lot of people here even blame Akhwan ul Muslimeen or Muslim brother hood to be the driving force behind these protests in Egypt.
While majority of western news organisations were slow or unavailable to cover the uprising in Tunisia Aljazeera sensed the air and jumped over the opportunity. It covered the protests in an aggressive manner. It was not easy for Aljazeera to cover the Tunisian uprising as Tunisian government barred all the reporters from the channel to cover from Tunisia. But Aljazeera found a way round it by using its Lotfi Hajji an old friend of Mohammed Krichen, an anchor at Aljazeera to work under cover and report from within Tunisia. Mohammed Krichen is also a Tunisian born who works for Aljazeera.
In Egypt the scene is quite different, here is a country that is important for stability in the region. Egypt is also one of the strongest of Arab countries left after the demise of Saddam Hussain. It has massive army who are very strong and have fought great wars with Israel. It was the shift in policy towards Israel during the regime of late president Anwar ul Sadaat that separated this country from the rest of Arab countries who see Israel as an archrival. Sadaat was assassinated and many believe he paid the price of friendship with Israel. Many blame the Akhwan ul Muslimeen or Muslim Brotherhood for the assassination and ever since Hosni Mubarak took power he banned the MB and eve since they are not they are out of the political scene.
So I ask the question what is Muslim Brotherhood? Who are its members and what are its ideologies? It is an Islamist movement founded by an Egyptian schoolteacher Hassan al Banna in 1928. MB as it is commonly known is the worlds largest Islamic political group with its presence in many Arab and Muslim countries across world.
MB has a huge presence in North Africa especially in Egypt because of its origin in Egypt. A huge majority among middle class support the brotherhood. Many of its members control many of the country’s professional organizations. Because it is illegal and cannot take part in politics in Egypt it runs on the grass root level where it has a lot of support. It runs educational & social welfare institutions across Egypt where majority of poor and middle class people join. Its candidates or those who are supported or backed by the organisation always do well among other opposition party candidates. But this doesn’t mean they are the only force in Egypt, there are many other opposition parties who have their own presence among the Egyptian masses.
Right now the uprising is coming to a stage where it is calm more relaxed and people are looking around for guidance. Hosni Mubarak played an interesting gamble by taking off the barbaric police off the roads and deploying military on the roads. Egyptians blame police for their hatred towards the regime too. They call it the real face of Mubarak who is brutal and vicious. They see this regime as completely out of touch or as rightly someone told me Mubarak doesn’t live in Egypt he lives on another planet so he shouldn’t be leading us. So there is a targeted specific hatred against Mubarak from all sides.
I have always believed that leaders who use their political power to force others to follow them and conform to his ideas become corrupt by the power they hold. In due course they believe that the power they have is everything and nothing else matters. They believe the web they built around them will save them and that is what brings them down. So by forcing others to conform to his ideas become corrupted by power they hold. In some time they come to believe that power and wisdom are the same things and if they have power they have wisdom too. This is the point where they loose their ability to distinguish between what is normally right and what is politically expedient.
I believe Hosni Mubarak is suffering from this as well those who held power for longer periods. It is exactly how Margaret Thatcher brought end to her days and Tony Blair ended up in disgust. Musharaf faced the same and many others. I am not putting them all in one pot, but the difference between Thatcher and Mubarak is that UK was able to over throw her nicely and democratically, while Mubarak and Zain Ul Abideen Bin Ali brought there whole nation to a halt. This is exactly the difference between Pakistan and Egypt or Tunisia.
Note: By the time this is published Aljazeera has been asked to pack their bags and move out of Egypt. It is off air from today. Also a famous Islamist leader Rachid Ghannounchi has returned to Tunis and received a monumental reception.