Gilani in Turkey

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After meeting President Karzai, Prime Minister Gilani is in Turkey on a four-day visit. Ankara has over the last few years assumed a special importance for Pakistan. Since 2007 Prime Minister Erdogan has hosted meetings between the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan in a bid to overcome their differences and promote cooperation against the extremist militants. Turkey also extended valuable help to Pakistan during the 2005 earthquake and recent floods.

While Pakistan, Turkey and Iran jointly set up the original three member ECO, which expanded in 2003 to include seven more countries, Islamabad and Ankara decided last year to establish a high level cooperation council to boost strategic cooperation, fight terrorism and intensify political and economic cooperation. During the visit Gilani would chair the first meeting of the cooperation council besides meeting the Turkish businessmen and addressing the Parliament.

Turkey has numerous similarities with Pakistan which should enable both sides to benefit from each others experiences. The two countries have a long history of military rule with Turkey under Erdogans Justice and Development Party having gradually established the supremacy of Parliament, successfully neutralizing powerful security agencies that include Ergenekon. What is more the moderate Islamic party has managed to retain power in a secular Turkey where the army is the supreme guarantor of the constitutions secular character. Like Pakistan, Turkey also has a complex and not altogether smooth relationship with the US. Turkeys image as a balancing power in the region has, however, grown and is being grudgingly recognized by the US also. Turkey has shown interest in public-private partnerships in Pakistans energy sector. Last month a Turkish power ship arrived at Karachi port and is soon expected to start contributing 232 megawatts to the national power grid. As neither the business community nor bureaucracy in the two countries is known for being particularly scrupulous, there is a need for ensuring that the business contacts are competitive and transparent.