Rajyasree Sen used to run the restaurant Brown Sahib in New Delhi and is a foodie. Much of her time is devoted to writing on pop culture and TV. She also maintains a blog foodforthoughtindia. blogspot.com, where you can order some delicious food from her catering outfit. And we can’t believe we’re plugging her catering business on a news site. Who approved this copy?
Hey, saw a very cool court-room drama with Jack Nicholson the other day. That’s not Jack Nicholson, that’s Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s former President. He just fancies down blankets and dark glasses while waiting to be sentenced. After all, if you’re going down, you might as well go down in style.
What was he being tried for? For thinking he’s acting in The Sopranos? Well, he was a bit of an autocrat. And was President of Egypt for over three decades. But then, much to his consternation, got ousted after massive protests which started on January 25, 2011. Bloodshed, massacre – more than 850 people died in 18 days. And then it took six months before he was put on trial.
So, after he’d dressed the part and lain propped up in his hospital bed in the little cage they’d made for him in the court, he received a prison sentence on June 2, for not preventing the deaths of protesters.
Poor dear, maybe he was just misunderstood. You know how difficult it is to step in and help protect people when they’re being massacred. Remember… Okay, okay, but I really doubt it. Hosni took office in 1981 after his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated by Islamic militants during a military parade. Mubarak was the vice-president then. One of the first things he did on becoming President was to say Egypt will stick to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Which was a first by any Arab nation with Israel.
And what about his relations with the big daddy of all superpowers – the land of milk and honey? Well, like all good autocrats he had the blessings of the good ol’ boys of America. He became a major mediator in the Arab-Israeli peace process and remained a consistent US ally. Smart boy. And, unsurprisingly, got billions of dollars in American aid.
Tough life. Did he ever contest an election? Aah, now you’ve asked the critical question. If you think our politicians turn populist as elections approach, you should take a look at the real people’s President, Mubarak. His government subsidised bread, cooking oil and gasoline. And instead of asking the commoners to eat cake when the bread riots turned violent in 2008, he put the military ovens to work to try and meet the needs of the people.
Doesn’t sound like an autocrat to me. More like a kind, old benefactor. Don’t be naïve. He’s quite the opposite. Along with his populist measures, Mubarak’s been criticised for engineering constitutional amendments which ensured only the ruling-party won in the elections. He even banned religious political parties, so the Muslim Brotherhood – which is Egypt’s largest political party – couldn’t officially participate in politics.
Did he contest elections or not? Or just stayed on as President for three decades? Oh no, the clever coot made sure he took part in elections. He got re-elected. Three times. First few were one-man referendums, which were supposedly staged. And miraculously, he always won more than 90% approval. No better competition, than competing against yourself.
But in 2005, he was magnanimous enough to allow the first ever multi-candidate presidential election. He won that also. Beating 10 other candidates. And much like in India, there were charges of fake votes and arm-twisting. The critics of the 2010 parliamentary elections claimed that these were rigged as well. The Brotherhood, in fact, responded by withdrawing its candidates – who’d run as independents – from the second round of voting.
I still don’t get why he’s got a life sentence. For what? For rigging elections? Most of our politicians should be behind bars then. No, no. On January 25, 2011, thousands of anti-government protesters were demonstrating to demand Mubarak’s removal, and there were massive clashes between the police and them in Cairo. That’s the day the Arab spring started in Egypt. And after three weeks of massive protests against his rule, Mubarak took the hint and finally resigned on February 11, 2011 and handed over power to the military.
So that’s a good move. He seems to take all the right decisions. You really should apply for a post in his PR cell. Anyway, on April 13, Mubarak and his two sons were finally detained in an investigation into corruption, abuse of power and the killing of protesters. And a month later, he was ordered to stand trial on charges of corruption and conspiracy in the shooting of the protesters. And that’s where you first laid eyes on him. Lying behind those bars, with his glares on, most probably glaring at everyone from behind them.
And what was his defence? I’m assuming it wasn’t a very good one since he was carted off to prison. Defence? The bugger didn’t waste his breath defending himself. He knew the inevitable result. So the trial took place in Cairo on August 3, 2011. And they put him in a cage, I kid you not. And he denied all charges against him.
In end February 2012, Mubarak turned down his last chance to address the court during the defence’s final arguments. And that was that. Come June 2, he was sentenced to life in prison and was taken to Torah prison in Cairo for a happy reunion with his sons and cronies who are incarcerated there.
So what’s the brouhaha about now? I heard he copped it yesterday and then heard he didn’t. It was like Mummy Returns. Well, it seems nobody believes that he’s actually unwell. Even though he isn’t a spring chicken and is 84. And they believe that much like our beloved politicians and celebs in India who become jailbirds, even Hosni dear, might be pretending to be unwell so that he gets shifted out of prison.
Also, the elections have been taking place in Egypt. And Mubarak’s former PM, Ahmed Shafiq, has claimed that he’s won the presidential election. While the Muslim Brotherhood is claiming their candidate, Mohammed Morsi, has won it. So could be that this announcement of him copping it is to win sympathy for him and Shafiq.
This is why you need a puppet king who never contests elections. Well, everyone’s not so lucky. So some people have to contest elections. But in anticipation of the results, The Brotherhood have already started protesting in Tahrir Square and chanting slogans in support of Morsi. Fun times. So the more things change, the more they remain the same.
So is he dead or not? Well, it was announced that he was clinically dead last night. But that’s been retracted. And the new statement is that he’s on life support. See, people still believe that this is just a ploy to move him out of prison. Also, much like our prison guards do a little pirouette around jailed politicians, so do their Egyptian counterparts. So whether he’s a vegetable or not, no one seems to be giving the poor sod the benefit of doubt.
Try not to say: Spring is in the air.
If you could: Pull the plug and have some bread while you’re at it.
Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/70225554@N00/3607880182/]