Mubarak facing the ghost of Sadat

Maswood Alam Khan from Washington, USA
When you are sad, when you struggle to make ends meet, you are not happy with the government that you did cast your vote for. You blame the government for all your economic woes and social plights. You are pissed off. You are so frustrated that you feel like tearing your hair out. You wish you had not cast your vote in favor of the set of people who are governing you. You wish for the government to fall. But the government is there to stay in power. Individually or collectively, you find yourselves too weak to fight against the forces in power. In such a mental quagmire you bite the bullet and look for a way to take revenge on your leader, the one who is robbing you blind. This is the moment when you curse your ruler; you spread bad names about your leader and start cracking jokes about the selfish head at the helm.

People in Egypt were frustrated as they had to stare at Hosni Mubarak, their selfish president, for the longest time. Egyptians, who are notorious for their caustic humors and rebellious jokes, were tired of even caricaturing Mubarak as they found no easy escape from his long arm. Their wishes for Mubarak’s fall, too long a shot though, didn’t work in spite of their attempts to volley curses and jokes at him. Mubarak’s brute regime had held its long breath and clung to power for 30 years as every Egyptian waited for the ailing octogenarian at least to die, if not overthrown.

Egyptian jokers had long been rebuking their leader for being a greedy bumpkin, cracking jokes about his tenacious grasp on the throne, but to no avail. Their wishes were, however, answered at long last as Mubarak had to leave his dictatorial presidency, yielding to the unstoppable pressures of protestors on the streets of Cairo in an unprecedented revolution that was rare in the history of the Arab world, setting an inspiring example for the suppressed people in the rest of the world and a grave instance for the greedy rulers, democratically or undemocratically seated in power, to see, on sober reflection, what happens when the chickens come home to roost.

One tells the truth on his or her deathbed. And the most popular joke about Mubarak’s skill and tenacity in corruption and cronyism is one imagining him in a deathbed scene. Mubarak, the joke says, while writhing with pain on his deathbed lamented: “What will the Egyptian people do without me?” His adviser tried to comfort him saying: “Mr. President, don’t worry about the Egyptians. They are a resilient people who could survive by eating stones!” Mubarak paused for a while to consider this and then tells the adviser to grant his son Alaa a monopoly on the trade in stones.

Another joke, still popular in Egypt and also among people in oppressive regimes around the world, is about choosing a spineless second-in-command or a commander-in-chief who would dare not challenge the incumbent. “When Nasser became President of Egypt”, as the joke goes, “he wanted a vice president dumber and stupider than himself to avoid a challenger; so he chose Sadat. When Sadat became president, he too chose Mubarak for the same reason. But Mubarak got Sadat somehow killed to pave his way to presidency, proving Sadat’s judgment of choosing his dumb deputy wrong. So, Mubarak chose not to have a vice president at all because he either did not find anyone in Egypt dumber than himself or found it risky even to engage a duffer.

Mubarak had acted prudently by not choosing his deputy as this time there was no vice president who could kill or challenge him. But he could not presage that this time Egyptians would choose Facebook and Twitter to organise a mass revolution in order to drag him out of his palace. Toppled in February following weeks of mounting protests, Mubarak had chosen to spend the past two months confined to a cliff-top villa in the beach resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh and was confident he would pass away his twilight years enjoying sea views and sea breezes.

He probably felt that since nobody investigated the pharaohs and kings for looting the Egyptians for 4000 years and as there was no precedent in the history of Egypt to investigate an absolute ruler for corruption he too would be spared an inquisition into his amassing wealth through corruptions. Unfortunately for Mubarak, this time he is failing to pass himself off as a pharaoh!

The army generals who are now running Egypt in what they promised will be a swift transition to democracy had initially appeared reluctant to hunt Mubarak in respect for his three decades’ service as their commander-in-chief. But pressures from the Egyptian public proved unrelenting.

Following massive protests on April 8th, the 82-year-old former president and his two sons were hauled for questioning on accusations of amassing illegal wealth and of responsibility for brutal police tactics blamed for the deaths of more than 800 protesters in January. Mubarak’s sons, Alaa and Gamal, were remanded in police custody along with a number of imprisoned ex-officials including a prime minister, senior cabinet members and leaders of the ousted ruling party.

This time again, Mubarak tried to pass himself off as a cardiac patient saying he was having a short breath when prosecutors asked him questions on “how he acquired his vast fortune?”

Did really Mubarak have a heart attack? Probably he did not. Mubarak perhaps pretended he had a cardiac discomfort to avoid answering the prosecutors’ questions! Mubarak had planned to get sick and he would again pretend to have a short breath and become unable to answer the questions from the investigating magistrates only to pause the digging into his financial empire!

It is not yet clear how rich Mubarak and his families are. According to some estimates, his ill-gotten fortunes could range from $1.0 billion to $70 billion. Critics are saying that his hidden wealth was acquired through corrupt property deals, mostly by Gamal and Alaa, his two sons, who had pressured Egyptian firms into giving them shares at lower than market prices.

Not only how Mubarak had accumulated and hidden his treasures would be investigated, he may also have to answer a plethora of questions Roqaya al-Sadat, the daughter of former president Anwar Sadat, has raised accusing the ousted president of involvement in the assassination of her father at the hands of Islamists in 1981. New evidence has emerged to prove his complicity.

It is claimed by some quarters that Sadat was not killed by bullets fired by Khaled Islambouli, the military academy student accused of the assassination in official accounts and that bullets were also fired from the podium where Mubarak was standing when Sadat had fallen dead.

All our sins are sins of commission or of omission: sins and misdeeds we did but shouldn’t have done and things we did not do but should have done. We commit sins as long as we believe we are not dying this night or tomorrow morning or not going to be punished anytime soon. But, time suddenly arrives when we don’t have time to compensate for all our misdeeds or make up tomorrow the time lost yesterday.

We are punished for our crimes. And die we all also must. It is appointed for men and women to die tomorrow, if not today. Death is “the king of terrors”. Death, to most of us, is not unexpected, although the quickness of death, even when one dies at an old age, often surprises us. Everyone must face death-and this includes our friends, our family members and the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Punishment for a crime is a reality and death is the cruelest reality. Still we are oblivious of punishment, when we are in power and of death, when we are alive!

There is a general belief that a sinner, who is very powerful (of course, ostensibly) would face the music on the Day of Judgment in the afterworld, if not in this world. That belief is purely illusory. A sinner actually pays for his or her sins very much during his or her lifetime and also in the afterlife. Sinners are continuously paying for their sins, but their punishments are not always brought to our notice; their pains and punishments are not always visible or audible.

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak seems to have already started paying, through the nose, the price for all his past sins and mistakes. He is also facing the ghost of assassinated former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Is Mubarak, in retrospect, reviewing all the past events, thinking he was wrong and repenting of what he had done? If he is, it is good at least for his life in the afterworld. But it is too late for him to redeem himself in this temporal life! Should not the fate of Mubarak be a glaring example for the dictators and despots, in and around us, to learn valuable lessons from others’ irrevocable mistakes?

We should bear in mind that one has to pay for his or her sins tomorrow or at the latest day after tomorrow, if not today. We must not forget that we are here on this Planet Earth for a very short time. We are like a morning mist that dissipates in the sunlight. We are like the grasses and the flowers that bloom in the morning and fade away in the evening. We are here alive today and gone dead tomorrow. Our life is just like a tiny drop of water tottering on a slippery leaf of a mass of floating water hyacinth!

maswood@hotmail.com

thefinancialexpress