Chants of liberty shake the Arab world

Daily: The News
Date: 26.02.11

Perhaps, the first impact Wikileaks produced on the world was Tunisian upheaval: a
disorder to give birth to an order. In that way, the Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
was the first victim of the revelation aspect of Wikileaks. The wave of liberty, as if it were
contagious, is still unabated. It has astir the whole region. Monarchies after monarchies are
falling to it. The attendant events though violent and vicious in nature betoken the kind of
days coming ahead.

Wikileaks made public the way Ben Ali arrogated wealth to himself. In its wake, the act of
self-immolation performed by a young fruit and vegetable Tunisian vendor, Mohammad
Bouazizi, protesting against police oppression and unemployment actuated the demand of
liberty in Tunisia and ruined the hold of Ben Ali on power. Consequently, Ben Ali had to
abdicate the throne and fled from Tunisia to save his life.

The Tunisian turmoil was not adventitious but overdue as the monarchy is considered an
anachronism in present day society. Moreover, the upheaval revealed deep-seated animus
of the Tunisian masses against the system rooted in antiquated pattern of governance.

The Tunisian upheaval has conveyed several messages to the world in general and the
Arab world in particular.

First, the rulers sticking to autocracy (or monarchy) under the garb of democracy are prone
to be hit by the Tunisian sort of cataclysm. It is now difficult to silence the masses and keep
them deprived of their due social, political and economic rights. Voices against political
repression are getting louder in the world as the desire for liberty is universal.

Secondly, in the citizen-state relationship, the masses clamour for finding their exact status
vis-à-vis the state. In the Tunisian case, it was not only that the masses had got intolerant
of fiscal corruption but also that the masses had got aware of the role of the state: the state
must consider them citizens and not subjects; the state should take care of them and stop
oppressing them.

Thirdly, the masses have got conscious of importance of fair distribution of economic
resources. In Tunisia, the uprising was not ideological in nature but economic. The revolt
was pregnant with the aim of introducing a political system (or a mode of governance)
guaranteeing economic equilibrium in society. Through the language of mayhem, the
Tunisians demanded an equitable distribution of wealth between the ruling class and
citizens.

Fourthly, the Arab world has been swept by the wave of democracy. The Tunisian upheaval
heralded an era of democracy in the Arab world. In Tunisia, the surge of democracy was
from the lower to upper echelons of society and not the vice versa. Nevertheless, what the
true character of democracy – western or local – the people of the region introduce as an
alternative system to monarchy is yet to unfold.

The picture of Tunisia has analogous implications for other Arab countries including Yemen
the monarchy of which has fallen prey to the urge of the masses for liberty. In Libya, the
masses are bristling with anger and indignation at the harsh treatment meted out at the
hands of the ruler, Colonel Maumar Qadafi. Nevertheless, the case of Egypt is a bit
different. Attached to Egypt is the (perceived) future of the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Under
the President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt was instrumental in influencing Palestinians to promote
the PLO (ruling the West Bank) and not Hamas (ruling Gaza strip).

In Egypt, the President Hosni Mubarak used to make his case strong in the western capitals
by saying that if you don’t support me, the right wing religious party, the Muslim
Brotherhood, would come to power. The West, in turn, remained scared of the phantom
projected by Mubarak who stayed in power for 31 years. With the change of both system
and regime in Egypt, the new stance of Egypt towards the Palestine-Israel issue is yet to be
known.

The chants of liberty are radiating an alarm for those Arab rulers who are still obsessed
with the Cold War mentality that siding with one bloc will ensure their survival at the helm of
the affairs. In fact, the rest of the world is bracing itself for repercussions of the happenings
in the Arab world.

The delight of the West (including the US) at the waves of liberty engulfing the Arab world is
alloyed by its concern for the nature of relationship expected to be fostered with the new
Arab regimes. Presently, the West bears certain apprehensions about what next is going to
happen in the Arab world. For instance, whether the ‘newly liberated’ Arab countries adopt
Iran’s theocratic model or carve out a way for introduction of Turkish-style democracy, even
if not the western type democracy? Secondly, what will be the place of Islamic parties in the
future political set up? Thirdly, will the status-quo on the Palestine-Israel peace process (as
was being endorsed by Mubarak of Egypt) be respected? Fourthly, what will be the future
of al-Qaeda in the Arab world?

Prices of oil and its products are getting buoyed up thereby sending ripples of alert and
anxiety to the economies of the western countries. The US is already beset by economic
problems ensued in the aftermath of Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Whether the US can
maintain ascendancy over the future Arab regimes or not must be the immediate concern of
the US.

In short, guessing the end of this beginning is not easy despite the fact that the beginning
has been welcomed by all.

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