The Arab Spring unleashed in 2011 seems to be continuing. The removal of Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi through a military intervention marks a new phase of public mobilisation in Egypt and is a step in the wrong direction. Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on state television announced that the junta wants to “achieve the building of a strong Egyptian society that is cohesive and does not exclude anyone and ends the state of tension and division”. For Pakistanis, such words invoke a sense of deja vu as time and again the military chiefs have made similar promises to people.
Mr Mursi, who was elected with popular vote a year ago and represents the influential Muslim Brotherhood, made numerous mistakes and isolated himself through a set of policies and actions that enraged the popular opinion. His brief rule was viewed as divisive, incompetent and too heavy handed for a large number of citizens in the country. However, the real disappointment of Egyptians was related to the economy and the shrinking real incomes and scarcity of basic necessities such as fuel. Another critical factor impacting the events in Egypt has been the tacit Western support to the protests against Mr Mursi.
The key lesson from Egypt is that institutional conflict does not lead to effective governance. Mr Mursi, without consolidating his power base, took on the courts, the army, the police, the media and, therefore, opened multiple battle fronts, rather than concentrating on effective governance. The electorate voted for change in the country and expressed their rejection of the farce of secularism which the army had imposed without real democratic freedoms and political competition. Perhaps, Mr Mursi and his backers in the Islamists group took that as an endorsement of hardline policies that the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical groups have been advocating.
The Supreme Court has been complicit with the army in this derailment of democracy in Egypt. Mr Mursi may have angered people but coups are no solutions for complex political issues. In fact, such acts further deepen political crises as has been witnessed previously in Pakistan and countries of Latin America. The people of Egypt deserve better than a recourse to praetorian rule which suppresses democratic freedoms.