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Egypt Forms Panel To Rewrite Constitution; Fires 2 Officials

Cairo, Feb 15: The Egyptian military today constituted a panel of legal experts, including a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, to suggest amendments to the Mubarak-era constitution while firing two top security officials for
PTI February 15, 2011 20:53 IST
PTI
Cairo, Feb 15: The Egyptian military today constituted a panel of legal experts, including a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, to suggest amendments to the Mubarak-era constitution while firing two top security officials for their handling of the anti-regime protests.

The eight-member committee that has been entrusted with the task of studying the constitutional reform would be headed by Tareq al-Bishry, a retired judge known for his independent views and support for a free judiciary during the reign of Hosni Mubarak.

"I have been chosen by the Higher Military Council to head the committee for constitutional amendments," al-Bishry said.

The Supreme Military Council has vowed to rewrite the constitution within 10-days and submit it to a public referendum within two months time. The Council said in a statement on television that the panel "must finish its work in a period of no longer than 10 days after the date of this decision".

The inclusion of a former lawmaker of the largest opposition group Muslim Brotherhood, Sobhi Saleh, in the panel is a significant message by the new military leadership that has chosen to begin the political reform process from scratch.

A Muslim Brotherhood leader, meanwhile, said that the group will apply to become an official party in the near future once the time is ripe.

The step to set up a panel comes two days after a parliament packed with Mubarak loyalists was dissolved and the constitution suspended in line with the demands of the protesters.

The constitution, that now stands suspended, had provisions that helped Mubarak and his allies in power, and a major demand of the protesters was the scrapping of such guarantees and putting term limits for presidential tenure.

As Egypt took baby-steps towards establishing a democracy, political unrest mounted in other Arab nations, with Egypt-inspired rallies witnessed in Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen and Iran.

Clashes were witnessed between police and protesters in Iran, where one person was reported killed, while in Bahrain another person was killed when security forces used force on mourners gathered for a funeral procession for a man killed in an earlier protest.

The Egyptian military also sacked two top security officials for their role in decisions to open fire on anti-Mubarak protesters during the 18-day uprising. The caretaker government fired the director of public security at Egypt's interior ministry, Adly Fayed, and Cairo's security chief, Ismail El Shaer, Al Jazeera reported.

The dismissals came as the military tries to calm public anger against the state's security forces that were used by Mubarak to stifle dissent.

The now iconic Tahrir Square was finally vacated by the protesters, though the huge anti-regime demonstrations have given way to widespread workers protests in many parts of Egypt.

Emboldened by the success of the mass uprising, workers unions, textile workers, bankers and even journalists, had joined protests demanding better wages and better working conditions.

Though Mubarak quit last Friday, protests, sit-ins and strikes at state-owned institutions, including the stock exchange, media groups and railways, have been disrupting normal life.

The military council, which is trying to restore normalcy in the country post the overthrow of the Mubarak government, today warned that further strikes will be "disastrous".

Three weeks of protests have already paralysed the country's economy, disrupting normal life and hampering tourism.

"Noble Egyptians see that these strikes, at this delicate time, lead to negative results," a military spokesman said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit appealed to the international community to help Egypt's economic recovery.

He called on "international parties to provide aid to the Egyptian economy, which has been severely affected by the political crisis that has shaken the country," his ministry said in a statement.

Egypt also asked the United States, and the European Union to freeze the assets of officials who were close to Mubarak.

The military leadership, that is now incharge of the administration of Egypt, has promised to oversee a peaceful transition to democracy by September.

Former president Mubarak handed over power to the military last week forced by an unprecedented mass movement that shook not only Egypt but the entire Arab world.

The ousted Egyptian leader is reportedly "ailing and bedridden," local media reports have said confirming that the toppled leader was still in a holiday villa in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh.

Egyptian daily 'Al-Masry Al-Youm' reported that soon after moving to the resort, the 82-year-old Mubarak who ruled Egypt for 30 years was gravely ill and slipped into a coma. Months before the protest against him started, Mubarak had been in Germany for a gall bladder surgery. PTI