Exit Gaddafi


Another despot has fallen, with few mourning him, as in the case of the late Saddam Hussein. Chased away from his lair after a protracted civil war, Muammar Gaddafi’s capital may not have capitulated as swiftly as it did without NATO’s critical intervention when the rebellion was in danger of losing steam.

Benghazi, Maserati, Tripoli, famous names which evoke the images of the Second World War, came alive as the Libyan rebels cut a bloody swathe towards Gaddafi’s capital. Then the Field Marshal was retreating to Libya after getting to within 20 miles of Alexandria in Egypt. This time round, there was only the cornered but still foxy Gaddafi, whose rule had lasted more than the supposed 1,000 years ‘Reich’, an incredible 42 years. Though his status at the time of writing is that of an MIA, missing in action, to all intents and purposes, the world has seen the last of this eccentric tyrant.

The Arab Spring that emanated in Tunisia in December 2010 has already blown away Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and now Gaddafi. And it is similarly threatening to some degree every long-ruling autocrat, whether of the monarch, Sultan or Sheikh hue. Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco and Oman have all been rocked with protests of varying intensity. Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Western Sahara too are simmering.

This awakening makes this the most momentous period in the history of the Arab world in living memory – perhaps the most significant since Gamal Abdul Nasser and his charisma spawned the advent of Pan-Arab nationalism in the 1950s. Though Gaddafi came on the scene much later, in 1969, but of the so-called Nasser clones that had overthrown monarchy and promised too much but delivered too little, he lasted the longest.

Of the rest in the Arab world and the Maghreb, Gaddafi’s failure must be seen in starker relief. With two per cent of the world’s oil and a population of only six million, Gaddafi had a great opportunity to turn Libya into a modern welfare state – a role model of sorts for resource and population-wise identically rich states down the stream in the gulf. He didn’t, instead engaging himself in subduing the citizenry in his quest for permanence of power, simultaneously taking up all the wrong causes including resort to terrorism. When this backfired, as it had to, after decades of sanctions he took a U-turn and started appeasing the West, perhaps with the latent intent to smooth the way for his son Seif’s stint after him.

That was not to be. And the potentates are fretting, for the fall of the trio of Arab strongmen disturbs the crucial political and sectarian balance in the zero sum game of Middle East politics. While Libya will affect the African region more, the rebellion will embolden its Syrian counterpart, and if Bashar Al-Assad falls, the Hezbollah-Iran-Hamas nexus will be fractured, to the delight of Israel and the US but also resulting in increased influence of the GCC Wahabi bloc.

Now that Gaddafi has been consigned to the dustbin of history, there are implications for the country – and the Arab world. The rapacious West, led by France and the UK (stretching the UN Resolution 1973 (211) that only emphasized the protection of all civilians to bombard the Libyan towns in which ironically many a civilian was killed before the objective of Gaddafi’s fall was achieved), is already lining up through establishing contact groups and mulling over roadmaps for Libya. The intent, of course, is to have a monopoly on the post-Gaddafi oil contracts.

In the absence of a clear hierarchy of leadership amongst the rebels, with Gaddafi’s torturers reportedly having changed stripes to join their ranks, whether the oil barons, security contractors and reconstruction Czars of the West will be allowed their pound of flesh or not is moot, but with the security apparatus and bureaucratic structures not in place, the plunge into chaos is a distinct possibility.

Another threat is the Islamic extremist lobbies gate-crashing to hijack the movement. It indeed is a danger and a most potent one at that. Libya does not have a sectarian problem, but if the Salafists gain a foothold in Libya, as Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen are trying to after a secular movement in Egypt has removed Mobarak, this would have ramifications down to the Gulf. Especially since, contrary to popular opinion, Gaddafi’s was one of the more effective outposts against Al- Qaeda’s snowballing infiltration in the Maghreb. The tyrant may have fallen, but a disturbing inflow of extremist warrior-clerics in the final days of Gaddafi’s stubborn stand is indicative of more disorder to follow.

All that aside, there is one matter connected with the Libyan Spring that concerns Pakistanis, and in particular the Lahoris. No, it is not the matter of bringing back of our nationals stranded in Tripoli. One is confident our embassy will display the usual efficiency for which our diplomatic circles are famous! One refers to Lahore’s and the cricketing world’s familiar arena that was named after the former Libyan leader during his visit here in 1974 by the mercurial ZAB. (If only the latter had taken Gaddafi’s correspondence course in survival and lasted even one third of his 42 years, what a difference it would have made to our star-crossed country).

So should the Gaddafi Stadium be renamed to mollify our conscience as well as the sentiments of the cricketing world? If the answer is in the affirmative, one may put forward the name of Mr Ijaz Butt for his ‘meritorious services’ in bringing such infamy to Pakistan cricket in only less than three years. A unique achievement, and worthy of the honour indeed!

The writer is Sports and Magazines Editor, Pakistan Today.


Comments are closed.