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Is Pakistan going to follow the Turkish political system?

BY Tariq Mushtaq

Turkey is our dear brother country and since long we have enjoyed very close ties with the Turkish people as well as with successive governments. As a student of international affairs, I foresee a number of changes in our present system of government. We should for sure be ready to observe the Turkish system of government in our country in the near future.

What is the government system in Turkey?

Since assuming the position of president in 2014, Turkish ruler Recep Tayyip Erdogan has aspired to endow it with far-reaching powers, replacing the country’s parliamentary system with something more like what Vladimir Putin has established in Russia. Though Turkey is a NATO member, Mr Erdogan is drifting toward Mr Putin’s Russia and talks of joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a club led by Russia and China.

His autocratic ambition was fiercely opposed by liberal opposition parties, and last year the project seemed dead after Mr Erdogan’s ruling party lost its majority. But Mr Erdogan proved both resilient and hardnosed: After launching a war against Turkey’s Kurdish minority, he called another election and won. Then, after a failed coup attempt in July, he orchestrated a far-reaching purge that has led to the arrest of about 40,000 people, including many who opposed his concentration of power. Mr Erdogan, who called the failed putsch a “gift from God,” is not just moving to further consolidate what already had become an authoritarian regime. He is now forcing the United States, Turkey’s NATO ally, in particular to hand over the alleged mastermind of the coup, Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. The Obama administration had resisted, what next with the change of government in United States, stands as big disarray.

Just for information, Mr Gulen leads a secretive Islamic movement that operates schools, colleges and universities in Turkey, the United States and other parts of the world. For years, his followers in the Turkish police and judiciary were allied with Mr Erdogan’s own Islamist party, ironically, the two combined to purge the Turkish military of officers suspected of coup-plotting. But the two leaders fell out in late 2013, when the government moved to close some Gulenist schools and prosecutors suspected of Gulenist sympathies brought major corruption cases against the government.

The Obama administration, which once looked to Mr Erdogan as one of its closer allies, has appeared at a loss about whether or how to stop his power grab. The incoming Trump administration or at least national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, meanwhile appears intent on pandering to the strongman. Mr Flynn has called for the extradition of Mr Erdogan’s rival and alleged coup plotter Fethullah Gulen, even though the Justice Department has not completed an examination of Turkey’s case against him.

Now Mr Erdogan is moving forward with a restructuring that will convert Turkey from a western-style democracy to something more like the Central Asian despotisms to its east. Under the reform introduced to parliament on 10 December 2016, a new president will take office in 2019 with the power to name his own cabinet, introduce budgets and rule by decree. The parliament will be reduced to voting up or down on the executive’s edicts. Mr Erdogan will find that familiar: He already has been ruling by decree under a state of emergency for the past five months. Having dominated Turkey since his Islamist party first won election in 2002, Mr Erdogan, 62, would be permitted by the constitutional reform to remain in office until 2029.

Many Turks continue to resist the strongman’s entrenchment and will vote no in a referendum likely to be held this year. But their leaders and media outlets are being systematically eliminated. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Dec13 that at least 81 journalists were imprisoned in Turkey during 2016 as a result of their work, more than in any other country. The leaders of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, which campaigned against the presidential system, are under arrest along with 12 of the party’s parliament deputies. The referendum will be tilted in Mr Erdogan’s favour.

Now, coming over to Pakistan’s political system, it seems we are going to follow the Turkish political system which already is subsequent to Putin’s system. We should get ready to perceive PML-N sweeping the next elections of 2018 and Nawaz Sharif taking oath as the president for the next many terms, with a dummy prime minister. The nation has already witnessed a strong president (Asif Ali Zardari) and dummy prime ministers like Gillani or Raja Parvez Ashraf. But there will be a difference this time, difference of power. If Nawaz Sharif takes oaths as president, the frame of powers will be restructured shifting to the president. Our already dummy parliament will be reduced to more dummy atmosphere and the country will observe something more like Central Asian despotism. Like Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Nawaz Sharif will also aspire to endow it with far-reaching powers, replacing the country’s parliamentary system with something more like what Erdogan wants to launch in Turkey and Vladimir Putin has established in Russia.

The Panama Papers episode has forced Nawaz Shareef and his allies to manage a change in system which is unchallengeable and favours the rulers. This all has to get drafted because our constitution doesn’t allow a fourth term for premiership but doesn’t restrain to become the president of the country. And to remain in power for a lifetime it’s important to shift the system, when already it’s observed in many countries. Who will constrain him, the opposition, the courts or the public? The reply is very simple. It is not possible.

If, at all, we want to change the system and follow others, it would be much better to follow the “Social-Democrat System” of Europe instead following any dictatorial system.

Late Mr Lee of Singapore, when asked about the tremendous progress, stated “Our progress is apparent in law, which is framed to benefit and favour the general public and not the rulers”.

General Park of South Korea ruled for 17 years and converted the country into an industrial giant. He had less than 1,000 dollars in his account when he died. Once addressing a press conference he mentioned that his vision of development had come from Field Marshal Ayub Khan of Pakistan.

Coming over to our own country, I would like to mention an incident narrated by Jamsheed Marker, a renowned foreign diplomat, in his book, “Quiet Diplomacy”;

“The Nowregian Minister told me about an incident that occurred in 1958 when he was posted to Tehran, with concurrent accreditation to Karachi and New Delhi. He had been involved in the preparation for a visit to Pakistan and India by a Norwegian minister responsible for foreign economic relations when he was suddenly faced with an awkward situation resulting from the unexpected declaration of martial law in Pakistan. This infuriated the Norwegian minister, a dedicated socialist, who wished to register his protest by canceling his visit to Pakistan. It took all of ambassador’s powers of persuasion to convince the minister that he should keep to the original schedule. The Norwegian minister first visited Pakistan, where he was immediately received by Ayub Khan. The meeting took place in a modest conference room with flapping cotton curtains and noisy air conditioner. Ayub Khan was in uniform, with his sleeves rolled-up and with three civilian advisors seated beside him at the conference table. The discussion was focused and fruitful, conducted in a friendly manner with full participation of all those present, Ayub Khan never hesitated to seek or receive advice from his aides. The minister left Karachi in a pleasantly surprised mood, with most of the prejudice overcome.

In New Delhi the Norwegian minister was kept waiting for two days before they could meet the prime minister. Nehru received them in a splendid office, with raw silk curtains and silent air conditioner, and was seated all by himself at a large, polished conference table, with about ten of his aides sitting behind him at a considerable distance. The meeting lasted for about an hour, fifty minutes of which were spent by Nehru expounding on the evils of NATO and Norway’s membership thereof. As they emerged from the prime minister’s office and entered the imposing carpeted corridors, replete with guards and messengers, the bemused Norwegian minister asked the ambassador, can you tell me which one of these is a democracy and which one a dictatorship?”

The question has never really lost its relevance. Since 1969 to date we are oscillating between the two. It’s ZA Bhutto or Zia ul Haq or musical chairs of Benazir and Nawaz Sharif, it’s Parvez Musharaf or Zardari or again Nawaz Sharif; and the attitude remains dictatorial. And the poor public is still hanging between the slogans of democracy.

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