Nothing succeeds like success

The new developments in Turkey are interesting at many levels. Turkey’s chief-of-staff, General Isik Kosaner, resigned on Friday along with the army, navy and air force chiefs. These en masse resignations were a result of the escalating tensions between the military and the government. Senior military officers have been arrested amidst allegations of planning the staging of a military coup. More than 200 officers were charged with an anti-government conspiracy. “It has become impossible for me to continue in this high office, because I am unable to fulfil my responsibility to protect the rights of my personnel as the chief of general staff,” said General Kosaner. President Abdullah Gul appointed General Necdet Ozel as the new army chief. “As you see, everything proceeds on its own course and there is no gap in chain of command,” said Gul. This is quite a change from the Turkey of yore. Had such a crisis arisen in the past, it would have probably resulted in a military coup. But the manner in which Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has managed to roll back the dominance and influence of the military in the state’s affairs over the past few years must be lauded. He never confronted the military directly. What Erdogan did was to improve the country’s economy, diplomatically engage with the European Union (EU) and in the region carve out a role for Turkey. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power since 2002 and won a third parliamentary election in a row this year. The reason Prime Minister Erdogan’s ruling party has won a third election is because of successful political, economic and diplomatic reforms. In the face of an electoral mandate, the military top brass had no choice but to exit gracefully unlike in 1997 when Erdogan’s mentor Necmettin Erbakan’s government was forced to resign in the face of an army-led campaign. Despite the AKP being a conservative Islamist party, so far Prime Minister Erdogan has not done anything detrimental to Turkey’s secular credentials. Secularism is one of the strengths of Turkey and should remain so.

There are lessons to be learnt for Pakistan from what is happening in Turkey. Nothing succeeds like success as can be seen from the way Mr Erdogan has tilted the balance of power in the civilian elected government’s favour. Democracy was finally restored in Pakistan after the 2008 general elections. People had high hopes from their newly elected democratic leaders after nine years of General Pervez Musharraf’s autocratic rule. Unfortunately, our civilian government has not earned any laurels in the past three years. Instead of progress, we have seen a fair share of regression ever since the PPP-led coalition government came to power. This is not meant to undermine democratic rule in Pakistan. Democracy is essential for a progressive Pakistan. But we also expect our politicians to deliver results. This is the reason why civilian governments in the past failed to rein in the military’s influence in the country’s political affairs. The incumbents are facing the same problem vis-à-vis the military establishment. Most civilian governments in Pakistan lose the public’s support soon after coming to power because of their flawed policies and corrupt practices. If our civilian leadership wants to correct the civilian-military imbalance, they need to ensure good governance. If only our leaders invested their time in improving their performance rather than political nitpicking, our military would have been persuaded to concede the proper space to the civilian order.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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