First of all, congratulations to him on his release. Secondly, does anyone else feel as silly as me about how this masra7iya (play) unfolded?
Time and time again, it happens. People get jailed, and then pardoned by the generousity of a royal decree. No wonder I'm getting disillusioned by Bahraini politics.
Once again, the government shows it can win a PR campaign, and the opposition is taken right back to square one.
What the government had to gain:
1. The prime minister is shown to be a victim here, as Al Khawaja joined in a prayer for him to die.
2. The King shows how generous he is by pardoning someone convicted of wanting death on his own uncle.
3.International viewpoint is once again skeptical of the opposition's claims. Do you know how many people here told me they were suspicious when they saw pictures like this in the news? For them, it looks like under-employed youth who have nothing to do with their time except cause a massive blockade of roads for enjoyment.
4. The government gets the chance to pass a bill against demonstrations, seizing on the oppurtunity that people have "overused" their demonstration rights.
What the opposition has to gain:
1.Al Khawaja suddenly has made himself a martyr and a superstar. I have a big suspicion that that was his cause right from the beginning, as it seems his aim from the start was to cause a massive conflict with the government. This may be because of noble causes (e.g. helping out the poor in Bahrain), or it could be just a quick bang way to publicity. I don't know much about him, so I'm not going to pass judgement here.
2.More international publicity, although some of it has been negative.
3. The traditionally established opposition, e.g. Al Wefaq, have actually had more to lose than gain here, I think. Their cause has been hijacked by Al Khawaja, and now basically he's the new superstar in Bahrain, whose demands have to be carefully met in opposition movements.
So is this the final chapter in this, it seems, very well-cooked play? Is it as wee say in Arabic, Toota Toota entahat el7adoota? I sincerely doubt it. Like I've said before, Bahraini politics has become somewhat predictable recently. Some sort of clash between the opposition and the government, lots of wrangling, publicity and protests, and in the end it usually ends with a royal pardon. A lot of commotion starts, people get excited, but when the dust finally settles, nothing in essence has changed. I think this is a direct result of what I've described before as Glasnost and Perestroika, where you give people the (relative) freedom to say what they want, without making much actual reform and restructuring in the way the country is governed itself. Hence, people now start complaining about all the problems they see before them, which they couldn't do before. This ebb and flow will, I think, continue, until we reach the last straw in this escapade that basically breaks the camel's back, and then something dramatic, a massive change occurs. It seems we are destined to this scenario of small nitpicking, until it builds up and a massive explosion occurs (maybe a new meethaq? a new constitution?). No gradual development for us. The last straw could be the Al Khawaja affiar, it could be another event. We'll have to wait and see.
The one thing, however, that might come out of this episode that government didn't want, is that the ball is rolling again on the issue of whether the prime minister should still stay in his post. That has become the main chant of people once again, while for the last three years it was about the constitution.
I personally think the constitution is more of an important issue than the prime minister. The latter deals only with one person, while the first deal with fixing the basic governing rules of a whole country. Anyway, one has to wait and see about how this will develop.