As mentioned in the previous chapter, Abdel Khaleq Tharwat Pasha resigned his Premiership mainly because of the unrest all over Egypt, caused by the arrest and exile of Saad Zaghloul Pasha; another important reason behind that resignation is the Palace intrigues and manipulation carried on by Mohammad Tawfiq Nasim Pasha, a notorious courtesan of King Fouad and Chief of the Royal Cabinet.  The King did not hesitate a second in accepting the resignation of Tharwat Pasha and asked, the next day, Nasim Pasha to form a new Cabinet.

Choosing the members of his team, the new Prime Minister took only one thing into consideration their loyalty to himself and to the Monarch.  Knowledge and efficiency were of no importance since the only program of the new Government was, as Historian Abdel-Rahman El Rafi’i put it in his Chronicles of the political life in Egypt during and after 1919, to please and blindly obey the King.

Luckily for Egypt, the Government of Nasim Pasha was short lived.  It lasted seventy-one days during which nothing was achieved.  The country was still in turmoil, its national leaders were either under arrest or living in exile and more foreign employees and British Nationals were mobbed and some of them killed; the Country was still under martial law and its appointed leaders did not raise a finger to negotiate with the occupying authorities the release of Saad Pasha and his associates.

At the end, it was the extreme and blind loyalty to the King that caused the fall of the Nasim Pasha Cabinet.  The Committee that was formed by Tharwat Pasha, the former Prime Minister, to write a new Constitution for Egypt, granted King Fouad the title of King Of Egypt And The Sudan.  The British High Commissioner objected to that title claiming that it contradicts the text and spirit of the February 28 Declaration, which removed the Protectorate over Egypt and recognized its independence.  Furthermore the British Forces, in a show of force and determination, carried on some military demonstration in Alexandria and Port Said to underline the seriousness of their objection.  Stuck between his loyalty to his King and his fear of a British reaction, Nasim Pasha presented the resignation of his Cabinet to the King who reluctantly accepted it.

For well over a month the Country survived without a Cabinet with civilian unrest and incidents of assassinations multiplying.  Military Governors were appointed for Cairo and Gizeh and, as a result of the killing of a British Subject in Jeziret Badran, the Cairo Military Governor imposed a fine of six hundred pounds on the population of that district.  Another one hundred and eighty pounds fine was imposed on the same district when another killing was perpetrated in the same district.  Public meetings were strictly prohibited in both Cairo and Gizeh and British troops forced their way into Saad Pasha’ s home (the Home Of The Nation), ordered his wife and assistants out and confiscated all of Saad Pasha ‘s files and personal documents and papers.

Meanwhile, the Constitution Committee finalized its work (1)  and rumors were running wild that some articles of the Constitution were secretly manipulated and its announcement postponed to an indeterminate period, which increased the popular unrest.  Fearing that the situation could well get out of control, the British Authorities hinted that it could recall Saad Pasha and his Associates from their exile or jail and present other concessions to calm down the population and to strengthen the hand of whatever new Cabinet the King might appoint; only then did King Fouad recommend to the British High Commissioner the appointment of Yahya Ibrahim Pasha, the Minister Of Education in the previous Nasim Pasha Cabinet, as his new Prime Minister.  The King based his choice on the presumption that Ibrahim Pasha, like his previous boss, would be easily manipulated.  The British High Commissioner seconded the King ‘s choice.

Judge, Cabinet Minister, and last Premier before the 1923 Constitution.  Born in Bahbashin, a village near Beni Suef, Ibrahim was educated at the main Coptic College In Cairo and the Khedivial Law School where he later taught.  He translated a French book on administration in 1885.  He became a Judge in the Alexandria National Court in 1888 and later in Zaqaziq and Beni Suef, and in 1907 he became the President of the National Court Of Appeals.  His Cabinet posts included Education in (1919 – 1920 and 1922 – 1923), Premier and Interior Minister (1923 – 1924) and Finance (1925 – 1926).  As Education Minister he sought to reduce illiteracy by establishing twenty-two night schools for workers.  While he was Prime Minister the 1923 Constitution and the Election Law were promulgated and Saad Zaghloul was allowed to return from exile.  Ibrahim was the first President of the Ittihad Party in 1925.  Although well intentioned, he could not withstand the pressure from either King Fouad or the British Residency to execute the policies that they wanted (2).

King Fouad handpicked all the Cabinet Ministers to serve under Ibrahim Pasha, claiming that his choice was uniquely based on support of the February 28 declaration.  The Cabinet was sworn in with the King believing that it would be a rubber stamp Cabinet that would fulfill all his wishes, while the British Authorities felt that the Cabinet would be an administrative one, composed of technocrats who would run the show as efficiently as possible until the Country gets out of the impasse in which it fell with the resignation of the Nasim Pasha Cabinet.

Both King and High Commissioner were wrong.  From day one, Ibrahim Pasha showed and proved to all that he was his own man and that he would soon announce the publication of the new Constitution and the promulgation of the election law.  To appease the Brits he promised to legislate all the decisions, administrative, military and judiciary, adopted by the Military Authorities under the martial law.  It was obvious that the Brits were satisfied by that decision and, in return, the London Government announced its decision to call back Saad Zaghloul Pasha from exile and to liberate all his associates.  Furthermore, the British High Commissioner announced the end of the martial law under which Egyptians lived for many years.

But, the main and most important achievement of the Cabinet was its publication, on April 19, 1923, of the new Constitution which declared that Egypt would be, from that date on, an Independent Nation and a Constitutional Monarchy with separate Executive, Legislative and Judiciary Powers.  Needless to say that King Fouad, who was dreaming of Absolute Power, something similar to the Divine Right of the Middle Ages Potentates, did his best to stop the implementation of the Constitution or at least to change some of its articles in such a way as to enhance his power, but all his vehement requests fell on deaf ears.   In fact, the Belgian Constitution, which mostly inspired the 1923 new Constitution, was then (and is still now) a Constitutional Monarchy.  Unfortunately for Egypt, the New Constitution that adopted the form of the Belgian one omitted to adopt its spirit and in future years, the King recuperated many of the powers making a mockery of the words “Constitutional Monarchy”.  Less than a decade later, that same King would abolish the 1923 Constitution rewriting one to his own liking.

Another important Cabinet decision was the adoption of a new Egyptian flag.  Gone was the red flag with a white crescent and star, which was replaced by a green flag with a white crescent and three stars.  The respect of the new flag was to be enforced by a law that would punish any disrespect with a six month in jail and/or a fifty pounds fine.

The Cabinet agreed that public employees working hours were inadequate and changed them into a six days a week work, from 08.00 hour to 12.30 and from 15.30 to 18.00 hour for the period from September 16 to May 15 (winter hours), and from 08.00 to 14.30 hour in the summer time from May 16 to September 15.  It also decided to give each Cabinet Minister the monthly amount of forty pounds, which would cover their transportation costs.  Another well-inspired Cabinet decision was to replace the retiring foreign employees in the Public Services by Egyptian ones.

The Cabinet promulgated the election law for the first time ever and, on September 27, 1923, the Egyptian people were invited to vote for their representatives.  The voting day was declared a day off work thus enabling all salaried employees to fulfill their national duty.  The Cabinet voted an amount of six thousands and five hundred pounds to finish the Construction of the Parliament building, and an extra amount of two thousands and five hundred pounds to prepare the Senate meeting hall.

Nothing can speak for the fairness and integrity of the Ibrahim Pasha Cabinet than the result of the election that took place.  Of the two hundred and fourteen seats of the House Of Deputies, the Wafd Party Candidates obtained one hundred and ninety five seats, which is over ninety percent of the seats.  Yahya Ibrahim Pasha, the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, who was a Candidate for his district of Minya-Al-Qamh, lost his seat to the Wafd Party Candidate; what more could be said!!! 

On January 17, 1924, Ibrahim Pasha presented the resignation of his Cabinet to the King.  In the resignation letter he underlined the importance to the Country of the fair election that he supervised; he added that he would have liked to stay long enough to also supervise the Senate election but the people of Egypt have spoken and their will should be respected.  After ten days of hesitation, King Fouad accepted the Cabinet resignation on January 27, 1924.

(to be continued)

Kamal Karim Katba







Arthur Goldschmidt Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Middle East History at Pennsylvania State University. He is (with Lawrence Davidson) the author of A Concise History of the Middle East, Eighth Edition, and is the author as well of Modern Egypt: Foundation of a Nation-State, Second Edition. He is the recipient of the Amoco Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching and the 2000 Middle East Studies Association Mentoring Award. Goldschmidt has been known during his years at Penn State for having created a series of courses that stimulated undergraduate interest in Middle Eastern history and culture. Educated at Colby College and Harvard University, Goldschmidt has held fellowships from the Social Science Research Council and the Fulbright Faculty Research fund, among others. He is author of numerous books and many articles and essays on Middle Eastern history. He was an elected faculty senator, chaired its committee on student affairs and served as secretary. He chaired the Middle East Studies committee for 25 years. He also was instrumental in helping to devise courses in non-western history and in developing the successor to those courses for the general education curriculum.

In addition, he is one of the most respected authorities on Egypt's Modern history. Prof. Goldschmidt is a frequent contributor on the Internet, including the prestigious and oldest forum: Egypt Net.

For meaningful and serious discussions about the History of Modern Egypt,  join Egypt Net group (The oldest & continuous Egyptian forum on the internet since 1985.) 



© Kamal Katba 2008


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