Ahmed Shafiq’s official biography on his campaign website for Egypt’s 2012 presidential election stresses his services to the country as a fighter pilot and Minister of Aviation. His biography also stresses (unconsciously) his high-level family connections as well as his ties with the army.
His grandfather, Zaki Ibrahim, was major of a small village, Ibrahimiyya, in the Delta (Sharqiyya Province), while his father, Mohammed Shafiq Zaki, was Minister of Irrigation and his now deceased mother, Nadjaah ‘Alawi, was the daughter of doctor Mohammed ‘Alawi Pasha, the first ophthalmologist in Egypt. Ahmed Shafiq, full name Ahmed Mohammed Shafiq Zaki, was born as their second son on 25 November 1941. He grew up with his elder brother, Mohammed (former artillery officer and director of the National Institute for Middle-East Studies), and his younger sister, Fatima, in the well-off Korba neighbourhood in Heliopolis, Cairo. Later, Shafiq married Azza Abdelfattah, the daughter of Tawfik Abdelfattah, the Minister of Social and Labour Affairs. Shafiq and Azza got 3 daughters before she passed away later, leaving him a widower.
Shafiq goes after high school to the Air Force Academy, from which he graduates in 1961. He serves in different divisions as a fighter pilot and fights in several wars such as the Yemen Civil War in 1963, the War of Attrition between 1967 and 1970 and the October War in 1973. In the first war he participated in combat operations along the Red Sea coast and the Saudi cities of Najran and Jazan to support the Egyptian ground troops against the royal troops. During this civil war, Egypt supported the republican Yemeni troops, while Saudi-Arabia supported their royalist Yemeni opponents. His official biography does not mention whether the abovementioned royal troops were royal Yemeni troops or royal Saudi troops.
Shafiq’s biography states that during the October War he participated in the air battle of Mansura (120 Israeli fighters against 60 Egyptian fighters) on 14 October. Israel tried to gain superiority in the air by attacking several Egyptian air bases in the Delta in order to weaken the Egyptian offensive against Israeli troops in the Sinai. Shafiq’s skill as fighter pilot is highlighted on his campaign website by several laudatory accounts of his former colleges as well by the statement that Shafiq was responsible for 2 of the 8 Israeli fighters that were shot down during this air battle. His official biography omits the fact that he served during the October War under the then Commander of the Air Force, Hosni Mubarak.
Between 1984 and 1986 Shafiq was military attaché at the Egyptian Embassy in Rome. He occupied afterwards several other positions in the Air Force until he became in September 1991 Chief of Staff of the Air Force and in April 1996 the Commander of the Air Force. Under his leadership the Egyptian air force was modernized according to his officially biography. This biography also lists his medals of honour, which he has received during his military career, as well as his Master’s degree in military science from the Nasser Military Academy and his PhD in the National Strategy of Outer Space. He also seemed to have studied at the École Supérieure de Guerre in Paris.
His military career ended in 2002, when Shafiq was appointed by Mubarak to the newly created post of Minister of Aviation. In this position he turned the loss making EgyptAir around and started the necessary enlargement of Cairo Airport with a third terminal. Shafiq’s campaign website describes these achievements in detail and extensively (60 pages!).
His achievements as Minister of Aviation are, however, countered by accusations that he squandered funds for the construction of the new terminal, sold land around the airport under market value to businessmen, including the sons of Mubarak, and had a new road built to the airport to shorten the commuting time between his house and the airport. On Shafiq’s campaign website is stressed that there is no corruption and the new access road was necessary. Shafiq also accuses Essem Sultan, a member of the moderate Islamist al-Wasat Party who accused Shafiq of corruption, of holding a personal grudge against him as Sultan also supported the Political Isolation Law in April 2012 which temporarily excluded Shafiq from politics.
Shafiq kept his post as Minister of Aviation until January 2011, when he was asked by Mubarak to form a new government in order to appease the protesters. Shafiq formed a new government, but in the end both Mubarak and he had to step down soon as result of the ongoing protests against the regime. Shafiq became an unpopular figure as result of his support and defence of Mubarak during the revolution.
After Shafiq announced his candidacy for the 2012 presidential elections, the Egyptian parliament – dominated by the Islamists (FJP and Nur Party) – passed in April 2012 the Political Isolation Law which excluded individuals who served as (vice-)president, prime minister or high-ranking National Democratic Party member under Mubarak, from public office for 10 years. However, the Presidential Election Commission allowed Shafiq as former prime minister to run referring the Political Isolation Law to Egypt’s High Court, which ruled later that the law was unconstitutional. Free to run, Shafiq won the first round with 5.5 million votes and now has to face the Muslim Brother and FJP president Mohammed Morsi (5.8 million votes) in the second round on 16 and 17 June.
Main internet sources and further reading
– Campaign website Ahmed Shafiq – ahmedshafikeg.com
– Egyptian daily Egypt Independent – egyptindependent.com
– Qatari news organisation al-Jazeera – aljazeera.com