I have strong doubts about the so-called revolution that is supposed to be sweeping the Arab World, which means essentially the Muslim world. Revolution is a strong word and takes you back to what happened in France two hundred years ago and in America about the same time. Nothing of the kind seems to be happening in, say, Tripoli, where an old-time tyrant is facing the all-suffering citizenry, and where his army is the only organised force protecting him.
We had more or less the reverse of what is happening in Libya, earlier in Egypt and before that, in Tunisia, where it all began. There it was the army which had refused to side with the ruler, and forced him to resign. In all the three cases, the so-called revolution was triggered not by Face book, but by the army, whatever the westerners might say. Ultimately, it is the army that matters, for it is the only really organised force in those countries and therefore sets the pace for “revolutionary” changes.
In all Muslim countries, the local dictators are under the thumb of their armies, and while dictators come and go, the armies call the shots. Pakistan is a very good example of how an army rules a country. I have always believed that Pakistan is not a country at all – in fact, it does not exist except on paper, and of course, on the maps. The only thing that works in Pakistan is its army. Take away the army and the country, or the so-called country, will cease to exist and vanish even from the maps. Presidents – so-called presidents – may come and go, dictators may come and go, but the army remains. But for the army, there would be no Kashmir problem, in fact, no problem at all of any kind with Pakistan, and we should rest in peace.
This is true of all Muslim countries, from Tunisia to the west to Indonesia in the east. These countries have oil, and often the only thing they have is oil. But even more than oil, what matters is the army, which is why all their dictators come from the army, or armed forces, and rule the country, though the real ruler is the army, and the man rules on behalf of the army.
Which is why, the Americans have their army all over the place, with perhaps the largest contingent in Saudi Arabia, from where the Americans get most of their oil. Which is also why the Americans spend two billion dollars, or about Rs. 10,000 crore, on the Egyptian armed forces every year, and also, of course, on the armed forces of Israel. The Americans spend more money on armed forces in the Middle East, including, of course, Iraq, than our entire expenditure on defence. The Westerners have always looked at the Middle East through the prism of armed defence in an uncertain world. For them, Face books and Twitters are frivolities indulged in by the cybernetic world of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, a wonderful world to write about but totally worthless when you come to brass tacks.
Which is why, as I said at the start, I have strong doubts about this so-called revolution in the Arab World. In Egypt, only a few hundred people died – maybe not even a hundred – because the whole show was scripted by the Egyptian army behind the back of Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak had proposed, or was about to propose, his son, Gamal, to succeed him and was said to be grooming him for the job. The army didn’t like this as Gamal had no military background and had never tried to get close to the military.
The army is supposed to have warned Mubarak about this several times but the man apparently took no notice. The crowds in Tahrir Square, never more than 50,000 according to some observers, were apparently manipulated by the security forces, though there is no tangible evidence about this. The fact remains that it was a peaceful show, except on occasions when the army suspected that the leaders of the so-called uprising were getting too big for their boots and had to be told to fall in line. Within hours of Mubarak’s resignation, the crowds disappeared, as if on cue, though Mubarak himself was still very much in Egypt, under the strict supervision of the army, and more or less its prisoner. It was the army that won in Egypt, and it is the army that is still calling the shots, and will probably do so until the next elections.
Things are a little different in Libya, which, unlike Egypt, is headed by a mad man, who also controls the army and whose stake in power in more precious to him than, say, that of Mubarak. Mubarak was head of the airforce when he took over, and was the choice of Anwar Sadat, the incumbent President at the time. This is not the case with Muammar Gadaffi, a self-designated illiterate colonel in the army, who was no more than a corporal when he took over. He was never really accepted by the army as its boss, which means he has been at odds with it right from the start.
This explains why Gadaffi is now engaged in a civil war, which means he is fighting his own people. Nobody trusts anyone-the king does not trust his government, the dictator does not trust his commander-in-chief, brother does not trust brother, and husband does not trust wife. So they all kill or try to kill, each other, as Aurangzeb did. The man slaughtered his brothers and their sons, and imprisoned his father. Had the people of Delhi risen against him, he would have killed them too. Murders, massacres and holocausts are an ancient tradition in the Islamic world. Perhaps, this is something they have inherited from Taimur and Genghis Khan and is now so much an integral part of their DNA that it comes to them naturally. It is not an accident of history that a man like Mohammed Ali Jinnah was the instigator of mass slaughter of Hindus before partition, though, for almost throughout his previous political career, those who knew him never had an inkling of this murderous side of his character.
Gadaffi may or may not remain in one piece when the smoke has cleared in Tripoli and the guns have fallen silent. It all depends on the Libyan army, if indeed there is an army. In Islamic countries, only the armies matter and everything else – constitutions, courts of justice, human rights etc-are mere scraps of paper. The French have a saying: when there is a problem, look for the woman. The Muslim have a saying too: look for the army. In the Muslim world, nothing matters more than naked force. Which is why, since force begets force, the Muslim world is never at peace with itself, nor with the world.