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Mubarak a free man

Editorial | New Delhi |

The clock has been turned back. Six years after the Arab Spring, Egypt's repressive dictator, who was toppled in 2011 after 30 years in power, is today a free man. Former President Hosni Mubarak has been released, and his repression has thus been relegated to the footnotes of history. One could argue that the Arab Spring, most particularly the historic upheaval in Cairo's Tahrir Square, has been reduced to irrelevance. He has been acquitted of the primary charge of involvement in the killing of protesters during the popular revolt for democracy and liberty.No fewer than 850 people were killed when police clashed with demonstrators during the 18-day revolt. It is a quirk of the law, such as it exists in post-Mubarak Egypt, that while members of the  ancien regime walk free, many leaders of the 2011 uprising languish in jail.

Indeed, the release has been facilitated by the relics of the Mubarak era ~ the judiciary and a quasi-military government.  After the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood dispensation in 2013, there was really no impediment to buttress the agenda of the old order.With Mubarak's release, the certitudes of the Arab Spring have been binned… together with the spirit of democracy. This must rank as the distressing implication of his freedom. His agenda has survived, however.

And not least because the government has come to be helmed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief who toppled Mubarak’s Islamist successor, Mohammad Morsi, after just a year in power. The abuses of the pre-2011 era are said to be creeping into the system to the extent that discussing Mubarak and the totems of his rule are now integral to the social/political discourse in Egypt.

He was the first of the toppled leaders to face trial and he must now be enjoying a quiet chuckle as Egypt bears witness to a defiance of history. This arguably is the most charitable construct that can be placed upon his acquittal.
Any balance-sheet on the sixth anniversary of the Arab Spring, that the democratic bloc might contemplate, must be a distressing reconstruction of contemporary history. It has been partially effective in Tunisia ~ where it all began ~ but Libya remains ever so fractious.

The dictator soldiers on in Syria, a country in tatters. Yemen and Saudi Arabia, if unscathed, are in ferment. Across the Arab region, only the ISIS has gained a foothold ~ a testament to the political vacuum generally.More accurately, the Supreme Court in Egypt has spoken against the democratic upheaval. It is the way history often works, as the British historian, GR Elton, had remarked in another context.