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Unprecedented show of people power at Egypt's Tahrir Square

Atul Aneja

Two-million-strong rally calls for an end to Hosni Mubarak regime

— Photo: AP

A force to reckon with: People from all walks of life gather at the Tahrir Square in Cairo on Tuesday to stage the biggest demonstration of people's power so far since the Egyptian uprising flared up to bring down the Hosni Mubarak regime.

CAIRO: After assuring the people that it would not fire on peaceful demonstrators, the Egyptian army, already a popular force, has facilitated the safe entry of protesters to Cairo's iconic square, the venue of a mammoth rally calling for an end to the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

The army was in full view at the Tahrir Square where, on Tuesday, there was a festive outpouring of at least two million people, from all walks of life — celebrities, intellectuals, working people, government employees, women, children and the elderly. With approach roads to the square blocked for vehicular traffic, people walked several miles to join the biggest demonstration of people's power so far since the Egyptian uprising flared to bring down the 30-year-old dictatorship of Mr. Mubarak. Many trains drawing protesters from other cities were stopped, to prevent more crowds overwhelming the square. Many agitators, unable to arrive in Cairo because of transport disruptions, held big rallies across the country.

Around 2,50,000 people poured into the streets in Suez, while big crowds assembled in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city.

The unprecedented mobilisation at the Tahrir Square of protesters, who had been frisked by the army for sharp objects and weapons before they entered, appeared to demonstrate that Egyptians had, during the course of the uprising, rediscovered their unity and lost sense of national pride. In Cairo, home to Coptic Christians, church bells rang at frequent intervals, while members of the Muslim Brotherhood handed bottles of water to the assembled protesters.

Yet, as they took to the streets in their millions, there were enough indications that behind the scenes the faint outlines of a political transition to a post-Mubarak era were emerging. On Monday night, the newly appointed Vice-President and former intelligence Chief, Omar Suleiman, invited the opposition for talks.

On its part, the opposition has signalled its readiness for a dialogue with Mr. Suleiman, but under two salient conditions: Mr. Mubarak has to go, and the Vice-President, duly empowered, should hold negotiations for a democratic political transition, fully reflecting the people's will. On Tuesday, the opposition National Coalition for Change, which includes the Muslim Brotherhood, called for the establishment of a national group to re-write the constitution.

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