The Turkish model


Anything to emulate?


One of the reasons perhaps for this phenomenon is that successive civilian governments have failed to deliver. Despite claims to the contrary the lot of the common man remains abysmal


Apart from al Qaeda, multifarious groups and sub groups of the Taliban and Da’ish agents operating within our borders we have a new threat to our already tenuous security. We are told by no less than the enigmatic Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while on a two day visit to Pakistan, that religious cleric Fethullah Gulen based in Pennsylvania was heading a terrorist organisation that could harm Pakistan.

On the eve of the Turkish president’s visit to the country, Islamabad showing unusual alacrity had given the marching orders to Turkish teaching and administrative staff employed by the Pak-Turk Educational Foundation to leave the country. Those being expelled implicitly belong to Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO) as the Turkish president put it.

Undoubtedly Turkey is Pakistan’s tried and tested friend and ally. Nevertheless, kowtowing to its wishes in such a shabby manner by the Sharif government demonstrates its desperation to win friends at whatever cost at a time they find themselves politically beleaguered at home.

If due process were followed, the vast network of Turkish educational institutions that has some 11,000 students would not have to be closed down in such a shoddy manner. In any case it isa bit of a stretch to swallow that, “the terrorist organisation (FETO) is a threat to security and public order of Pakistan”.

Ironically, there are bigger threats to the security of Pakistan than school teachers. Operatives of different proscribed terrorist and sectarian outfits have virtually a free pass or are simply not apprehended within the country.

In a span of three months three serious terrorist attacks in Balochistan speak volumes about our sense of priorities. The perpetrators of the Quetta carnage last August, in which the crème de la crème of Balochistan’s lawyers was wiped out, are yet to be traced out.

Similarly, after being in a constant state of denial, our policy makers have finally acknowledged the existence of Da’ish within our borders. We are informed, rather belatedly, that the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab has busted an eight-member Islamic State (IS) cell based in Lahore that was sending recruits to Syria and Afghanistan.

Another report claims hundreds of these Pakistani recruits are fighting on both sides in the Syrian conflict. It leaves not much to the imagination that once back in Pakistan what havoc this radicalised lot will perpetrate within our borders?

But we are told by our foreign guest that the biggest threat to the country are a bunch of school teachers imparting education in a country where the state is more interested in spending on vote catching projects rather than on education or health.

It was a relief that the Balochistan chief minister and the chief executive of Sindh attended the banquet hosted by the prime minister in honour of the Turkish president at the Lahore Fort. Turkey is one of the few friends that Pakistan can rely upon, and not just of the Sharifs.

Historically, the Turkish nation has stood by the Muslims of the sub continent. Hence relations between Turkey and Pakistan predate their present leaderships and surely would prosper in the future as well.

It is indeed unfortunatethat Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) boycotted the joint session of the parliament addressed by the Turkish president. It is a patently facile logic that had the party’s legislators including its head Imran Khan attended; it would lend legitimacy to Prime Minister Sharif. The PTI might pretend otherwise, but until the court declares him guilty as charged of corrupt practices Sharif remains the elected chief executive of the country.

The PTI is hurting its own cause by its perennial recalcitrance. Being the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) it is part of the federation. Hence no show of its chief minister was rather odd.

Prime Minister Sharif in a joint press conference with Tayyip Erdogan mentioned the 15 July “heinous coup attempt”. He lauded the Turkish people for resisting “illegal assault on democracy”. The Pakistani leader was perhaps trying to strike a common chord with the Turkish president.

Both Turkey and Pakistan have a long history of meddlesome generals in the past. But what happened in Ankara last July was indeed of historical proportions. The manner in which the ordinary man on the street resisted the coup attempt was laudable and unprecedented.

Sharif himself has been on the wrong end of the military stick through his three stints as prime minister. He was sacked by president Ghulam Ishaq Khan in cahoots with the military in 1993, and in 1999 Musharraf as army chief deposed him. Now with General Raheel Sharif — virtually at the end of his term – he has an uneasy relationship with the military.

Nevertheless whether it was a populist leader like Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto or later his daughter Benazir Bhutto as prime minister never in the history of Pakistan has there been a popular uprising to defend elected leaders against tyranny.

One reason that is commonly offered for the present Turkish leadership’s popularity is that under AKP’s rule the median income of ordinary Turks has almost quadrupled. Hence the people do not see any reason to support the coupsters.

Thankfully Pakistan in the post Musharraf period since 2008 has been free from overt military interventions. Nonetheless this does not mean that the army has taken a back seat.

As the Economist put it succulently in its latest issue: Diplomats call it Pakistan’s forthcoming “transition of power”.They don’t mean a change of government, but rather the appointment of a new army chief.

This is how the world at large views our democracy. The military’s ingress in foreign policy and internal security is unprecedented. And despite consistent squabbling in the end the military mostly has its way in most matters.

One of the reasons perhaps for this phenomenon is that successive civilian governments have failed to deliver. Despite claims to the contrary the lot of the common man remains abysmal.

But so has been the case under strongmen like Ayub Khan, Zia ul Haq and Musharraf, each of whom overtly ruled for a decade or so. Sadly those who have gained most from Pakistan have little commitment to democracy or its institutions. These chattering classes in unison with a sizeable section of the media crib the most about alleged malfeasance and corruption of the politicians.

Thanks for small mercies; the media in Pakistan is relatively free as compared to most of the third and Islamic world. There are no political prisoners and parliament, courts and other state institutions are functioning reasonably well for an incipient democracy.

The Turkish model is rather different. Since the coup, manynewspapers and television stations have been banned or taken over by the state on a whim. Journalists are routinely imprisoned. And jails are full beyond capacity with political prisoners. Hopefully the Sharifs do not have this model in mind for Pakistan.