Last Updated: Wed Jul 20, 2011 22:50 pm (KSA) 19:50 pm (GMT)

Eman El-Shenawi: A coffin of curiosities: The technical questions that will be asked if (when) Mubarak dies

Ahmed El Meslemany, in his news analysis show pondered over what would happen immediately after Mr. Mubarak died. (File photo)
Ahmed El Meslemany, in his news analysis show pondered over what would happen immediately after Mr. Mubarak died. (File photo)

A popular Egyptian political analyst and news presenter once held a stimulating discussion about former President Hosni Mubarak about a month ago. It resembled one of the many gossipy political chats heard in post-revolution Egypt.

Ahmed El Meslemany, in his news analysis show called Al Tab’aa el Oula (The First Edition), c
But he didn’t answer the question, which in itself opened up a can of worms about what would happen next and the political aftershocks that would ensue.

Mr. Meslemany was talking in light of Mr. Mubarak’s health wobbles: conflicting reports about his cancer, a coma, his hospitalization have all led to murmurings about his death and what it would mean for the currently detained former president.

The 83-year-old is accused of abusing his unfettered powers to accumulate illegal profits throughout his 30-year tenure, and more significantly, instigating the murder of hundreds of demonstrators during the popular Egyptian uprising. He is due to face trial on August 3.

Almost as a footnote, let me remind you that this topic is not predicting or wishing on Mr. Mubarak’s death, but it is also not just a “what if” question. It’s more than that; it all depends on when he dies -- before he stands for trial or after, when he may be convicted of his alleged crimes.

Mr. Meslemany poses questions in such a scenario:

1. We should consider whether Mr. Mubarak’s passing will be announced in an official state broadcast or will it be something the media is free to announce instead?

2. Will the government declare any national day(s) of mourning for the ex-President; will the flag fly at half-mast?

3. Will this inspire a private funeral, a public funeral or a military one?

4. Will his two sons, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak – currently detained in custody for similar charges to their father – be allowed to attend his funeral?

5. Will other presidents and royalty that have previously shared special relationships with the former President or his administration be invited to attend a public ceremony, if there is one?

6. Where will he be buried, in the capital Cairo or in Sharm el Sheikh (popularly known as Mr. Mubarak’s second home)?


The reason why these questions are crucial to ask is because they all raise the issue of Mr. Mubarak’s status in Egypt. Is he a criminal? Not yet. But he was ousted by a sweeping majority of the Egyptian population that did not want him in power and will drag him to a courtroom. But would he deserve a military send-off judging by his military past?

Mr. Mubarak was a Chief Marshal in the Egyptian Air Force and is until now recognized for his “heroic” service during the much-celebrated October War of 1973, or the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria. But this will not deter Mr. Mubarak’s opposition; those that protested against his rule, with many fiercely demanding his trial and execution through stubborn Tahrir Square sit-ins.

The shamed ex-president could soon be a criminal. Then, he would not be entitled to military or presidential privileges in his death. The prospect of his death is confusing. And yet onlookers are forced to think of it more as a looming possibility because of the frenzied reports of his health conditions.

But the raw reality is that Mr. Mubarak is in limbo even before his death. And quite similarly, post-revolution Egypt appears to be in limbo too. Two opposing scenarios share the same sentiments. But that’s another story.

(Eman El-Shenawi, Columnist at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: eman.elshenawi@mbc.net.)

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