Pouring out in their thousands yet again in the streets on Monday afternoon, Egyptian demonstrators, battling the Hosni Mubarak regime, have called a million-strong march and a nationwide strike for Tuesday.

The government has once again threatened to scare the protesters, who would not settle for anything short of an end of the regime, by extending curfew hours and deploying the highly unpopular police force, virtually absent from the streets in the last 48 hours. But the agitators appear unfazed by the new threats, mainly on account of the disinclination on the part of the military, supposedly the bulwark of President Mubarak's regime and capable of playing a decisive role in the ongoing standoff, to clash with the opposition.

In Cairo, the military is making its presence felt in large parts of the city. Tanks have been deployed at key intersections including bridges and government installations. Ordinary people, while talking to foreign journalists, are full of praise for the Army for its reassuring and imposing presence but they make no bones about how much they despise their corrupt police.

Analysts, however, say the supporters of protests are likely to be rattled in case the military or elements within it turn upon the protesters at some point of time, reflecting a possible internal power struggle among regime supporters and reformers.

Cosmetic changes

Despite the unwavering protests, the Mubarak government has continued to respond with cosmetic changes to what demonstrably is a popular revolt. On Monday, the President appointed Mohamed Wagdi the new Interior Minister, a portfolio which deeply resonates negatively with the agitators. Not surprisingly, there had been an attempt to storm the building of the Interior Ministry, better recognised among the protesters as the focal point from where decisions were taken to torture innocent people and, with impunity, violate their human rights.

With the local administration in free fall, citizen groups have been formed to provide basic services. Brooms in hand and wearing white masks, trendily dressed women, young and old, are cleaning the streets, much to the approval of passing crowds, many of whom are ready with their camera phones to take pictures or film videos. Young men are also mobilising trucks to dispose of accumulated trash. But financial services were down for the third consecutive day. Internet services have also not been restored.

Meanwhile, the death toll in the seven-day violence has touched 150.

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