For the last 18 days, the world has watched the protests unfold in Egypt. We tuned into the developments hourly and daily. We watched the crowds grow larger, more determined, and more united. We saw a revolution take shape, despite attempts by the state to squash this resolve.
On February 11, 2011, we witnessed a historic moment – a largely peaceful protest movement toppled the autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak. According to Al Jazeera English, the crowd in Tahrir Square chanted, “We have brought down the regime”, while many protesters were seen crying, cheering and embracing one another.
Many people have tweeted or commented on whether Pakistan can or should go the same route as Tunisia and Egypt. To some extent we already did. Street protests and demonstrations, led largely by the lawyers’ movement, helped contribute to the eventual resignation of former President Pervez Musharraf in 2008, [or at least to the reinstatement of the Chief Justice – remember the Long March?].
Sumit Ganguly commented further on this question in a piece for Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel:
Why has Pakistan not seen, and is unlikely to see, street demonstrations of the order that have swept aside the regime in Tunisia and now threatens the one in Egypt? The reasons are complex. Despite the elements that Pakistan has in common with both those states, there are important differences. Pakistanis have enjoyed, for varying lengths of time, the advantages of democratic, civilian rule even though they have yet to vote an elected government out of power. The all-powerful military apparatus has frequently stepped in when it has deemed that the civilian regime has either proved to be unstable or breached some invisible but nevertheless real boundaries. Despite the tenuousness of democratic regimes, they are not unknown in Pakistan, as they are in Tunisia and Egypt.
We also have a working judiciary, even if it’s not always independent, noted Ganguly, as well as “viable political parties.” We have a vibrant media. Does this mean that people are content with the status quo in the country? Of course not. These institutions are deeply flawed. But while Egyptians throughout the country were able to unite for a common call for democracy, toppling a figure who was the face of autocracy for 30 years, we have a very different and complex set of issues, making it difficult to unite under one banner.
Today, though, let’s celebrate Egypt and the Egyptians who proved today the power of the people can truly ring louder than the rule of a dictator. Congratulations, we are truly privileged to have witnessed such a historic moment.