Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq spoke about the current political situation in the country, criticizing the performance of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government there, in addition to expressing his deep love for his homeland.
General Shafiq narrowly lost the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections to Freedom and Justice party candidate Mohamed Mursi. Shafiq obtained 48 percent of the vote in the election run-off, losing to the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who won 52 percent of the vote. He has since left Egypt and is residing in the United Arab Emirates: The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What’s your view of the situation in Egypt two years on from the 25 January revolution?
[Shafiq] The situation is very bad to the point that we are in danger and it cannot continue in this manner. First, the political problem is primarily a domestic one, because the Egyptian people do not accept-in any way, shape, or form-what is happening; that is the greatest problem. As for the external problem, this is that the whole world is well aware, without any shadow of a doubt, of the Egyptian people’s rejection of the methods of the current regime.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your view, is this problem due to the ruling regime or the opposition, or are both parties at fault?
[Shafiq] By God, all parties have their problems, however the primary problem in the country are due to the rulers, namely the Muslim Brotherhood. The rulers completely failed to achieve any of the desired results that are talked about following any regime change.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Speaking from outside, how do you view the position of the Egyptian military and Interior Ministry regarding what is happening in Egypt?
[Shafiq] They (the ruling regime) are playing a game whereby the army will sit on the fence . . . that is to say, where the army is neutral. The evidence of this can be seen in the fact that on the day of the huge 2.5 million protests at the presidential palace in December, they did not allow any forces from the army or police to be deployed under the pretext of neutrality. So is it logical to sit on the fence in the middle of a conflict between the people, with one person wielding a gun and shooting the other in the back? Unarmed people were being shot in public. People would find themselves painted with a green laser and then they would be shot. Should they (the army) have refrained from returning to the streets to break up what was taking place in terms of people being assassination? Is that really neutrality? They (the regime) are afraid and wanted this result; they wanted to generate a state of fear of the Brotherhood in the Egyptian street. The second issue is that they are afraid of the army returning to the street and taking power once more. And I say to them (the Brotherhood): Don’t be afraid . . . the army is overwhelmed with very bad memories regarding the period it was in charge of the country. The army will not return.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How worried are you about the economic situation in Egypt? How would you rate the Brotherhood’s performance so far?
[Shafiq] I could not be more concerned . . . they are dreaming of obtaining the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan. They are aware that such a loan would represent a blessing if it is used correctly, however it would be a curse if it falls in the hands of those who don’t know how to act and . . . we are in the hands of those who do not know how to act. Whether we are talking about the IMF loan or funds from other lenders, what is happening is that the Egyptian people are being endangered due to these huge loans; the Brotherhood will not remain in power for long and the Egyptian people and their children will suffer from the future consequences of such loans. At the present time, a new tone is prevailing regarding exploiting Egyptian assets . . . particularly in terms of sukuk and investment; with such investments not being sold, rather the buyer is given (ownerships) rights which last for 99 years. This is nothing more than fraud . . . they want non-Egyptians to own Sinai, which is territory that 100,000 Egyptians bled and died for.
Where were those who are in power today when the people of Egypt were being martyred in Sinai? Where were they when Egypt was being subjected to war by the world’s largest superpowers due to its establishment of the Aswan High Dam? These are things that cannot be relinquished because they are closely associated with the history of the Egyptian people. Playing with such issues is dangerous. I warn those who will come to invest in Egypt in this manner because the ruling regime will be overturned one of these days and these properties will be taken from them one more. All of the investment contracts of this type will be void.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have the ruling parties in Egypt contacted you to invite you to participate in the solution? Or does the culture of reprisal still prevail on the political scene in Egypt?
[Shafiq] I do not know what my response would be if they tried to contact me. As for the issue of reprisals, this is their daily bread.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about contact between yourself and the Egyptian opposition?
[Shafiq] I have personally been in direct contact with colleagues in the Egyptian National Movement during my time abroad.
I received numerous calls and offers of cooperation, all of which are being discussed. However I am quite pessimistic about the Egyptian opposition’s chances of achieving the required success to confront a despotic and fraudulent regime.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Does this mean that your party will not take part in the forthcoming parliamentary elections?
[Shafiq] The party officials are in the process of studying this issue. However I would like to ask: What will we gain by participating in elections that will certainly be rigged? What did we benefit from taking part in the referendum on the constitution when this referendum was also rigged? All that happened was that a false legitimacy was granted to (Egyptian) democracy and governance, not to mention the acceptance of the constitution. Therefore everything that will be based on the constitution in terms of the parliamentary councils and so on . . . is based on a false and fraudulent foundation.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Regarding vote rigging, some people are of the view that the judicial investigations into the last presidential elections have gone on for too long and may be forgotten. What’s your view?
[Shafiq] The investigating judge has been assigned and we will monitor the investigation. Things are quite clear for us . . . and we have sufficient documentation and evidence, and we will continue to work in this regard.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some Egyptian media have reported that you intend to leave the UAE and take up residence in Britain. Is this true?
[Shafiq] No, this is not true.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Does your presence in the UAE represent any problems?
[Shafiq] They (the ruling regime in Egypt) imagine so, but this is nothing more than wishful thinking.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Does this have anything to do with the reported Muslim Brotherhood cell uncovered in the UAE and accused of seeking to overthrow the regime?
[Shafiq] Not at all . . . and I do not even want to know news about this case.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the land sale case that you have been implicated in?
[Shafiq] This is ridiculous . . . there were strong attempts by my accusers to put an end to my political career, but they will not succeed in this.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What’s your view of the attempted Egyptian Iranian rapprochement under these regional and international conditions?
[Shafiq] In general, good relations are required, but one thing should not come at the expense of another . . . we must be very cautious in this issue. Although I am always concerned about promoting good relations, Iran has not provided us-during this period-any justification to squander our Arab and Islamic relations with sisterly states, particularly in the Gulf region.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are shuttle visits taking place from western states to Egypt, most recently a visit by a US congressional delegation which met with President Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the opposition. What’s your view of this?
[Shafiq] I believe this is part of attempts to provide necessary support and guidance to stop the growing collapse of Egypt’s system of governance.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did this have anything to do with western concerns regarding imposing a state of calm between Gaza and Israel?
[Shafiq] The deliberate welcome on the international level regarding the understanding between Israel and Hamas is nothing more than propaganda to confirm that relying on the Muslim Brotherhood is workable for western states, and they supported this approach in the first place. While this is all based on brokering a simple understanding between Israel and Hamas, both of whom are very happy, and there was no effort nor depth to this. Hamas held a three-day celebration in Gaza, while Israel also said that it was happy because no rockets had struck Tel Aviv. So I would like to know: What miracle dud the Brotherhood performed in this regard?
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some people have noted a growing extremist movement in Egypt, for example we saw the passing of a law this week reducing women’s chances of securing seats at the next parliamentary elections. What’s your view of this?
[Shafiq] This is unacceptable . . . this is the product of governmental bodies that came to power by vote rigging. Generally speaking, the Egyptian people are religious by nature, and this is something that is known to the entire Muslim world. If the Egyptian people were not religious by nature then Egypt would not have been the home of the venerable al-Azhar institute, which is known as the center of Islamic science. Al-Azhar would not have remained in Egypt if Egypt were not the mother of Islamic piety. This is something that does not require further talk. As for whether the Egyptian people are devout to an over-exaggerated or extreme level, that is another matter. We will not be prey to extremists playing on our emotions. Egypt’s Muslims will remain moderate, accepting and welcoming their religion without over-exaggeration or extremism or abuse.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you feel nostalgic to return to Egypt?
[Shafiq] There are some ignorant people who don’t know anything about love for Egypt . . . such people never deny that they do not care for Egypt, but rather are seeking (to establish) a regional state or Islamic Emirate that includes all the Islamic countries in the region. They don’t want an Egyptian president for Egypt. However my love for my hometown Cairo is just part of my great love for Egypt as a whole. I love the district of Heliopolis where I was born, which is part of my greater love for Cairo, and that is part of my even greater love for Egypt as a whole. When a person does not have somewhere to hold on to . . . then he is ignorant, and what such people are talking about is completely ignorant. Do they think that if we cancelled our borders and returned to an Islamic Emirate, then nothing would happen? This country would be preoccupied with its own issues, and this would motivate all other countries to attempt to push their interests. They imagine that this (establishment of an Islamic Emirate) would mean that we were moving towards a more logical equation however on the contrary we would be moving towards a situation that would ultimately destroy us.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You have been away from Egypt for quite some time. What newspapers do you read for a taste of home?
[Shafiq] I read the Egyptian governmental newspapers which make me feel sad about the situation that my country finds itself in, and this only increases my determination (regarding the need for change in Egypt). I read these newspapers in order to feel sad . . . in order to see the bad side. And I read the opposition newspapers to see the optimistic side in terms of their perseverance and determination to complete the march towards democracy, freedom and justice.