By Babar Ayaz
Gaddafi renounced support to revolutionary groups, stopped the assassination of his opponents in other countries, agreed bombing compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, refrained from interfering in other countries’ affairs, had taken action against al Qaeda.
“It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day...
I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds.
Thus I entered, and thus I go!
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
‘Paid by the world, what dost thou owe,’
‘Me?’ — God might question; now instead,
‘Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.”
I am reminded of these three stanzas of ‘The Patriot’, written by a19th century poet Robert Browning, on the killing of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Leading the young officers’ revolt he came into power in 1969 full of pan-Arab nationalist passion, having deposed King Idris. He established the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Republic) and was inspired by Gamal Nasser of Egypt. He expelled the Italian settlers, forced the multinational oil companies to increase the share of Libya from 50 percent to 79 percent, ordered the closure of British and American military bases and followed pro-Palestinian policies. All this was enough to upset the west even four decades ago.
For his own people he established direct democracy, which quickly degenerated into a one-man dictatorship. He considered himself as the great guide of the people with his own philosophy imbibed in the poorly written Green Book. But on the other hand, he spent oil money on raising Libyans’ literacy rate from a dismal 10 percent to 90 percent. He established gender and race equality, provided free healthcare, education and housing services. Life expectancy of Libyans increased to the level of the Americans. Gaddafi kept the country debt-free in spite of mega projects such as diverting a river. For all this he first emerged as the saviour of the people and ‘it was roses, all the way’. But that was in the first few years.
Then what went wrong that he was unable to hide and was discovered by enraged rebels and killed brutally? Like all dictators, Gaddafi started believing in his own illusionary grandeur and failed to learn from history and current affairs as well. No matter how good or benevolent a dictator, he/she is bound to get unpopular for staying too long. And to prolong his rule he earned many enemies from the Islamist Hizb-ut-Tahrir to the western powers. He got his opponents killed in the country and abroad, supported the IRA and many other revolutionary organisations even as far as South America. His roughish behaviour isolated him in the Arab world although he had come to power riding the Arab nationalism horse.
Gaddafi should have taken a clue from the spring revolution that started from Tunisia and stepped down voluntarily as the Tunisian president did. But that would have been out of character for the Gaddafi the world knew. Internally, all dictators fail to realise that stable economic development contributes to social mobility. As the middle classes and local bourgeoisie’s size gets bigger, the foundation for democracy is laid. These classes want a share in power and fight bitterly for it against dictators who help their cronies to a large share of economic and social power. The poor join these middle class and businessmen-led movements, hoping that the change will bring them some relief. In today’s world everybody knows that the worst democracy is better than a benevolent dictatorship because the rulers have to listen to their voters’ demands. The problem is, most rulers ignore the basic textbook political science lessons.
But that is not all. Gaddafi had started behaving himself once the UN sanctions were imposed. He renounced support to revolutionary groups, stopped the assassination of his opponents in other countries, agreed bombing compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, refrained from interfering in other countries’ affairs, had taken action against al Qaeda and started projecting a soft image of his government through his LSE graduate son.
Then why did the NATO forces come to support the internal uprising in Libya? No, not for the love of exporting democracy as they plead. They have never supported any dissent in their beloved Saudi Arabia. They turned their eyes when Saudi and UAE forces rolled into Bahrain, where a small minority rules the majority, to crush the democratic movement. They provided mercenary services to Kuwait when the Kingdom was taken over by Iraq. They unabashedly support Israel although it has been violating all the UN resolutions. They oppose observer-member status for Palestine in spite of their right to be a state on the pre-1967 Palestinian territory.
They disliked Gaddafi from day one because he expelled the Italian settlers, closed British and American bases, asked for control over its oil resources. That was when he came. They bombed the life out of the Libyan armed forces and financed and armed the rebel forces because Gaddafi had refused to join the French-initiated Mediterranean alliance; he was redirecting his oil sales to China, which was one of the major resources for fuelling Italy and other European countries, and was negotiating with Russia for investing in Libyan energy resources. This is when the NATO powers killed him with the support of the local rebels. Remember how the US got Khwaja Nazimuddin and Mohammad Mosaddegh removed in Pakistan and Iran respectively when they refused to join the Baghdad Pact and made a horrible example out of Bhutto for making a nuclear bomb?
Will the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) be able to deliver democracy in tribal Libya remains to be seen. Back home in Pakistan those who think that there would be an Arab Spring, however, may remain disappointed. Pakistani democracy, no matter how inefficient it is, has safety valves: changing the government through elections, free media to voice dissent and a vibrant opposition. Externally, a stable Pakistan is the need of the world powers and its neighbours to stand against the tide of Islamic militancy. So do not get excited and presume that the western powers will support a militant resistance to the government here. Relax and wait for the next elections as we earned it by restoring democracy in our country.
Source: The Daily Times, Lahore