It was not the popular turmoil caused by British intransigence towards a modification of the 1936 treaty that created the demise of Nuqrashi Pashas Cabinet but rather the Cabinet and particularly the Prime Ministers harsh reaction to the popular unrest.

More than anything else the confrontation between police and University students on the Abbas bridge, on January 1946, with about 84 students seriously wounded, caused a wave of more protests that led to the Cabinet resignation which was promptly accepted by King Farouk.

The King seriously believed that this was the time for serious negotiations with England now that it was ruled by the Labor Party, which was believed to be much more flexible than its predecessor the Conservative Party.  He also felt that these negotiations should be carried by a strong Independent Prime Minister, acceptable to England, leading a grand coalition Cabinet and his choice fell on Ismail Sidky Pasha (1) to lead such a Cabinet.


Sidky Pasha was then well known as a faithful servant of the Monarchy and for his strong and powerful personality and the King firmly believed that he choosed the right person to lead the negotiating team while maintaining peace and order in the streets.  The newly appointedPremier met with the leaders of all the Political Parties enticing them to participate in his Cabinet but only the Constitutional Liberal Party accepted his offer of four Cabinet posts while he filled the other posts with Independent Personalities; that Cabinet which was sworn in by the King was to be the first Cabinet since 1935 that would not rely on a Parliamentary Majority.

Seventeen days after the formation of the Cabinet, the King issued a Royal decree appointing Sidky Pasha to lead the negotiating delegation and fixing the agenda of the negotiations which was to obtain the military evacuation of Egypt and the unity of the Nile Valley (Egypt and the Sudan).

It was generally felt in the political milieu that the negotiations which were to take place would be crowned with success and those parties that refused to participate in a grand coalition Cabinet hurried to offer their support and participation in the negotiations hoping to share the laurels of success.  Still the Wafd Party not only refused being part of the process but also abstained to support any agreement that could be reached!!
 

This being a short lived Cabinet (a few days less than ten months) mostly concerned and concentrated about leading the talks with Great Britain to a successful end and to the signing of a Treaty that would meet with the approval and support of the Egyptian People, only a few achievements could be traced to the Cabinet:

It established a High Council for Education headed by the Minister of Public Instruction and on March 18, 1946, abolished the Ministry of Supply and amalgamated its operations with those of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

On August 7, 1946, The Cabinet promulgated a law establishing the Council of State (MAJLIS AL DAWLA) composed of The High Administrative Court, a Legislative Section and a General Assembly; it drew the responsibilities of each of those branches and  It also appointed Mohammad Kamel Morsi Pasha, the then Minister Of Justice, to be its first Supreme Judge.
 

Another law was decided by the Cabinet establishing a benevolent society within the Ministry of Religious Affairs; that society would be funded by charitable donations and tasked to lend interest free amounts to those in need.
 

It was also decreed to limit the working hours in the Private Sector such as the commercial stores. Restaurants, Hotels, barber shops, etc. to nine hours.  Any extra hour on the job would cost the employers 25% extra per hour and no more than 11 hours per day, per person would be acceptable.  It also decreed that stores should be closed at 8.30 P.M. in winter and 9.00 P.M. in summer.  Food stores such as groceries and bakeries would be allowed an extra hour of opening.
 

An important Decree was issued requesting that all communications, verbal or written, between businesses or individuals, and the Government should be in Arabic, and all businesses signs should also be in Arabic, a foreign language would be tolerated beside the Arabic sign in much smaller size.

The negotiations, for which the Cabinet was appointed in the first place, debuted in Cairo on mid-April, 1946, with an agenda presented by the British Negotiators which turned around keeping a Military Base along the Suez Canal with a British garrison in peace and war under the cover of a mutual defense treaty!!  This meant that the Brits started the talks with the wrong foot; Mr. Ernest Bevin, the British Labor Foreign Secretary, confirmed the above mentioned agenda in his address to the House of Commons and in several press conferences held in London which turned the Egyptian optimism into a dark pessimism.  A similar declaration by the British Embassy in Cairo did not make things better.  In spite of all that, the Egyptian 12 delegates persevered into the talk and trying to melt the ice; at the end it was obvious to the Egyptian Team that the Brits were in fact trying to impose a Treaty no different from the 1936 one. 
 

The negotiations were frozen by both sides; the Egyptians explained the fiasco in a public statement addressed to the people while the British, in a press conference, claimed that they had to return to London to submit the matter to Mr. Bevin. Prime Minister Sidky Pasha decides to by-pass both negotiating teams and flew directly to London to negotiate behind closed door with the British Foreign Secretary.  In fact these two gentlemen reached on October 25, 1946, an Agreement known in History as the Sidky / Bevin Convention.
 
 

When the news of that Convention reached Cairo, seven of the Egyptian Negotiators refused to accept it (possibly because they were not part of the process) thus turning the success of the Convention into a brick wall against which the Cabinet vacillated and fell!!
 

In no time demonstrations filled the Egyptian cities and town and Sidky Pasha who, at his investiture, authorized demos taking place without attacks on Public Buildings and Foreign owned interests, changed this peaceful policy and threatened to severely crack down on any unrest.  Things got much worse when one of those demos was attacked in Ismailia Square (now Tahrir Square) by a British armored cars platoons killing twenty three Egyptian demonstrators and wounding hundreds which in turns led to more demonstrations attacking and destroying British owned properties!!
 

That same evening, the Cabinet met and amended the criminal code by adding articles imposing severe sentences on political incitements and abolishing the right of Public Servants to go on strike; more articles were added to fight against any Communist activities.  The Cabinet also imposed a ban on the Wafd Party Newspaper and prohibited all kinds of public meetings.
 

At the end, the popular unrest that did not stop and Sidky Pashas feeling that the Convention he signed with Mr. Bevin was indeed for the best interest of Egypt, along with his failure to have it adopted by the Country, met the King on December 8, 1946, and presented his resignation giving his ailing health as an excuse; on January 9, the Monarch accepted it, thus ending the third and last Cabinet of Ismail Sidky Pasha.
 
 
 


 







(To be continued)

Kamal Karim Katba 
 
 



 


 

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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 2013


 

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