By Kamal Hyder
When the Taliban movement took off in the mid 1990’s they had no support from Osama Bin Laden or his outfit al-Qaeda.
The Taliban agenda was introverted and interested only in restoring security and stability within the confines of the Afghan frontiers.
However, al-Qaeda’s agenda was more regional or perhaps even global.
Many Arab Mujahideen, or Holy Warriors as they were known by the US, came from far away lands in North Africa, including Algeria, Morocco, Libya and even Egypt.
The Afghan war provided a window of opportunity for the despotic Arab regimes to send their trouble-makers to fight a war in a distant land, and please Washington in supplying the fighters for America’s holy war against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.
It was like killing two birds with one stone.
After a heroic struggle, and with help from the Arab fighters, the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan and the country plunged into civil war.
As warlords took control of their turfs many foreign fighters were disappointed and went back to their native countries.
To their surprise, while they were welcome to come and die in the holy war, they were not welcome back in their own countries.
Those who did manage to go back started to make demands unacceptable to their despotic regimes.
In Algeria they were instrumental in winning the elections. However, the spectre of an Islamic state so close to the shores of Europe was a non starter from the word go and every effort was made to empower the Algerian military to crush the Islamists.
There was no notion of democracy then and even brutal military regimes continued to have the support of the West. There was no outcry over the human rights violations committed by the Algerian security forces.
The bloody civil war cost countless lives and plunged the country into one of its darkest chapters of its history.
It also exposed the double standards on democracy. That democracy was acceptable only as long as it did not endanger the security interests of regional and global military powers and as long as liberals or secularists won the elections.
In the middle it translated into a simple equation: "Any threat to Israeli security would be a threat to the rest of the world".
Many Egyptian fighters who helped their Afghan brothers defeat a superpower were extradited back to their countries after the Egyptian intelligence gave names of Egyptian fighters who fought the Afghan war.
Pakistan's government at the time rounded up such fighters and handed them to their Egyptian friends. Many of the returnees had to face mock trials, long prison sentences, and some were even hanged and buried in unmarked graves.
But like all other places, the reaction to the repression was only a matter of time.
Years on the Egyptian people want their despot to go.
Dubbed as the "Last Pharaoh", Mubarak's departure is being prevented by the very powers that helped him unleash a reign of terror.
The Egyptian crisis was not yet a religious revolution but one of consensus amongst the various political factions in that country.
Even the Islamic brotherhood was honest to admit that it was not just them but the whole of Egypt and its people who wanted justice after 30 years of brutal rule.
Events in Tunisia awakened a sleeping giant: the people. There was anticipation that change would soon sweep the area and like ninepins the regimes would all fall one-by-one.
The people of Egypt can chart their own future course. The expectation will obviously be that they be allowed to do so.
Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's Pakistan correspondent, reports from across the country.
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|F. William Engdahl|