The situation seems to involve two separate crises, with Pakistan having to face an external crisis, and Egypt an internal, but one commonality is that both involve the two strongest militaries of the Muslim world, and, that too, at a time when the battle lines between the regime and the Islamists are hardening in Syria, where the regime is using chemical weapons.
Pakistan has been fending off an Indian war threat over the LoC, and with the country stood its military. On the other hand, the Egyptian military showed the people of the county that whether or not it could defend the country against Israel, it was capable of beating off any challenge to its rule, and of killing its citizens to remain in power. With the BBC reporting 830 killed in all of Egypt between Wednesday and Sunday, there would be a definite danger of Egypt descending into the same sort of chaos that afflicts Syria, where it is so clear that the country is undergoing a civil war, that there are murmurs of a division of the country along sectarian and ethnic lines, almost as if the props of the Assad regime are trying to salvage what is possible.
The Syrian example should be before the eyes of the Egyptian military because it provides an object lesson in the limits of the power of force. The epicentre of the fighting is once again Hama, a city that underwent a massacre in 1982, in which 20,000 to 40,000 people were killed by President Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, suppressing the resistance there for all of his own and the early part of his son’s tenure. But the resistance began there, and continues. Though Hama is once again taking a battering, with the Syrian army using artillery and rockets, it is still known as the ‘capital of the resistance’. But is there any guarantee that the next generation will not rebel too? And the Egyptian military might like to consider whether the massacres committed today might find a reply 40 or 50 years down the line. They have been large enough to have achieved two things. First, they will form part of a collective memory.
Second, they will drive a wedge between the people and the army.
That also provides a lesson to the Pakistani military. The army will only be accorded the right to rule if it is seen by the people as more likely to fulfil their aspirations than elected politicians. If it is seen as an alien presence, it will not find enough cooperation. Therefore, both the Egyptian and Pakistani armies need to consider how far they are fulfilling their roles as defenders against external enemies. The Egyptian army made peace with the enemy, in the shape of Israel, in violation of the aspirations of the Egyptian people. However, conflict with India is the reason for the Pakistani army having the right to rule, and the recent sabre-rattling by India was over the same place as provides the main cause of conflict between the two countries: Kashmir. Both militaries have tried to win over the USA, even though it backed Israel, and now India. Egypt turned at first to the USSR, but after its collapse to the USA. It seems as if the Egyptian and Pakistani militaries cannot oppose the wishes of the people, especially where the USA is concerned.
It is worth noting that the terrorism card is being played in both countries, though only in Egypt by the military. While India is blaming the LoC confrontation on terrorists committing atrocities, the Egyptian army is accusing its opponents of being terrorists. However, judging by the failure of US media to jump to the bait, the charges do not seem to have provoked much interest.
There has not been any concern about the threat posed to Pakistan in Egypt; perhaps, the Egyptians are more concerned about the events in their own country. However, the Indian sabre-rattling has not been so intense as to drive all awareness of the massacre in Egypt away. The Jamaat-i-Islami, which has been chuffed by Morsi’s win, has been adversely affected by his overthrow. The Jamaat has for a long time seen the Ikhwan as a sort of equivalent to it, as Muslim party that has taken the democratic route to power. Morsi’s success was important to the Jamaat, as a symbol of what could be achieved by participation, and coming as it did on the heels of a comprehensive defeat in the May 11 election, his ouster had all the more impact. The candlelight vigil at Mansoora for Morsi was heartfelt, and the recent bloodbath was a follow-up.
The massacre also rattled Turkey’s ruling AKP. It is the successor to Necmettin Erbakan’s Rifah Party, and to its perceived Islamist vote bank. Like the Jamaat, the Rifah Party was also modernising, but unlike the Jamaat and the Ikhwan, which respectively had Maulana Abul Ala Maududi and Hasan al-Banna, had no religious scholar as founder. That did not prevent the AKP government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from looking favourably upon Morsi, and unfavourably upon his ouster. Erdoğan is avowedly pro-American, and is involved in the effort to topple the Syrian regime, and saw Morsi as an ally in this. However, he did not share in the support expressed for Morsi’s overthrow by other American allies, like Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Egyptian situation has been the steadfast support for the military that Israel has been showing. It is, perhaps, noteworthy that the long-stalled Israel-Palestine talks started on the day of the massacre. American concerns about Morsi and the Brotherhood centred about attitudes to Israel, and the approval of the coup by Israel also explains American approval. It is significant that Israel worked to ensure that Congress did not suspend aid to Egypt. After fighting four wars with Israel, now the Egyptian military has been reduced to depending on it to ensure the continuing of the aid it has been getting since the 1978 Camp David Accords.
Pakistan has to adjust to the new reality of an India that may well engage in sabre-rattling until the Congress government goes to elections. Though it won freedom from the British, occupied Kashmir, and fought three wars with Pakistan, it faces a challenge on patriotism from the BJP. This is not entirely wrong, for today’s Congress has got an Italian President and the PM is not a caste Hindu. Therefore, there may be more crises, before the polls due next year, but there will be no war, because both countries want to avoid an expensive conflict, not to mention the risk of a nuclear exchange. India is also using to the hilt the impression that it has grown closer to the USA, on which Pakistan relies so much.
As the two Muslim countries face their separate crises, they will learn lessons from each other. While Egypt learns about the risks of being hostile to a US-backed neighbour, Pakistan will learn how far a military can go to preserve its privileges.

The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as executive editor of The Nation.