Riaz Pasha - Encyclopedia


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RIAZ PASHA (c. 1835 -), Egyptian statesman, born about 1835, was of a Circassian family, but said to be of Ilebrew extraction. Little is known of his early life save that until the accession of Ismail Pasha to the vice-royalty of Egypt in 1863 he occupied a humble position. Ismail, recognizing in this obscure individual a capacity for hard work and a strong will, made him one of his ministers, to find, to his chagrin, that Riaz was also an honest man possessed of a remarkable independence of character. When Ismail's financial straits compelled him to agree to a commission of inquiry Riaz was the only Egyptian of known honesty sufficiently intelligent and patriotic to be named as a vice-president of the commission. He filled this office with distinction, but not to the liking of Ismail. The khedive, however, felt compelled, when as a sop to his European creditors he assumed the position of a constitutional monarch, to nominate Riaz as a member of the first Egyptian cabinet. For the few months this government lasted (September 1878 to April 1879) Riaz was minister of the interior. When Ismail dismissed the cabinet and attempted to resume autocratic rule, Riaz had to flee the country. Upon the deposition of Ismail, June 1879, Riaz was sent for by the British and French controllers, and he formed the first ministry under the khedive Tewfik. His administration, marked by much ability, lasted only two years, and was overthrown by the agitation which had for figure-head Arabi Pasha. The beginnings of this movement Riaz treated as of no consequence. In reply to a warning of what might happen he said, "But this is Egypt; such things do not happen; you say they have happened elsewhere, perhaps, but this is Egypt." On the evening of the 9th of September 1881, after the military demonstration in Abdin Square, Riaz was dismissed; broken in health he went to Europe, remaining at Geneva until the fall of Arabi. After that event Riaz, subordinating his vanity to his patriotism, accepted office as minister of the interior under Sherif Pasha. Had Riaz had his way Arabi and his associates would have been executed forthwith, and when the British insisted that clemency should be extended to the leaders of the revolt Riaz refused to remain in office, resigning in December 1882. He took no further part in public affairs until 1888, when, on the dismissal of Nubar Pasha, he was summoned to form a government. He now understood that the only policy possible for an Egyptian statesman was to work in harmony with the British agent (Sir Evelyn Baring - afterwards Lord Cromer). This he succeeded in doing to a large extent, witnessing if not initiating the practical abolition of the corvee and many other reforms. The appointment of an Anglo-Indian official as judicial adviser to the khedive was, however, opposed by Riaz, who resigned in May 1891. In the February following he again became prime minister under Abbas II., being selected as comparatively acceptable both to the khedivial and British parties. In April 1894 Riaz finally resigned office on account of ill-health. Superior, probably, both intellectually and morally to his great rival Nubar, he lacked the latter's broad statesmanship as well as his pliability. Riaz's standpoint was that of the benevolent autocrat; he believed that the Egyptians were not fitted for self-government and must be treated like children, protected from ill-treatment by others and prevented from injuring themselves. In 1889 he was made an honorary G.C.M.G. A worthy tribute to Riaz was paid by Lord Cromer in his farewell speech at Cairo on the 4th of May 1907. "Little or no courage is now required," said Lord Cromer, "on the part of a young Egyptian who poses as a reformer, but it was not always so. Ismail Pasha had some very drastic methods of dealing with those who did not bow before him. Nevertheless, some thirty years ago Riaz Pasha stood forth boldly to protest against the maladministration that then prevailed in Egypt. He was not afraid to bell the cat."

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