Bahrain: boiling up again

The arrival of Saudi and Emirati troops to quell dissent was followed by even more Pakistani police. Yet protests escalate.

"King Hamad offers compensation to victims of February crackdown, but says protest-related trials will continue" reports Al Jazeera. A double-edged scimitar, if ever there was one. The swelling crowds of mainly Shia people are calling for an end to the monarchy.  As Ali Jawad Ahmed, a young teenager, is mournfully laid to rest having been killed in Sitra vilage by a tear-gas canister fired by Bahraini police (according to the BBC), the masses' anger and frustration is charged to explosive levels.

In a society where a minority rules without the consent of the majority, there is only one outcome possible: the regime's overthrow. Irrespective of American concerns, as its Fifth Fleet is stationed on the Gulf island state.  A major upset is bound to occur soon.

It's likely the overthrow and capture of the vicious Libyan tyrant and his cohorts will spur these people on. Surely, if Hamad wants to hang on to his throne he must permit democracy and freedom to thrive.  And the royal family should back off from the political fray. The King appears to have lost the trust and respect of the bulk of his people, always an untenable position. As the Thai, British, Spanish, Japanese and Bhutanese monarchs would tell him, constitutional monarchy enables them to remain heads of state - leaving the complex world of politics to politicians.

And as Gyanendra Shah, ex-Nepalese monarch, would undoubtedly inform him if he could, clinging on to power with an appointed prime minister is a direct route to the exit door.  New Nepalese prime minister Baburam Bhattarai has shown the way by spurning "the opportunity to travel in a luxurious car," writes a BBC reporter in Kathmandu, who says he "has instead chosen an unglamorous vehicle assembled in Nepal."  There's a message in that somewhere. Admittedly, Bhattarai is a Maoist but he surely realises that he'll win favour with the masses as he avoids the "luxurious trappings of previous prime ministerial vehicles."  Winning over the people is the first, not last, duty of government.  Only then can hard bullets be bitten as measures are unveiled that hurt yet are designed to cure. 

I know that monarchy might feel it needs to be shrouded in a certain mystique. But hanging on to the world's longest-serving unelected prime minister, as Hamad has done to his uncle Prince Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa, is not going to win plaudits from a people pressing for democracy.  Khalifa has ruled as Prime Minister of Bahrain for an earth-shattering 39 years. 

Hamad is one of only a few absolute rulers left in control, most of them located in the Middle East.  Surrounded on many sides by Arab uprisings, is his intransigence really very wise?

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