Ever since the rise of the ‘fairest party of them all’, an incessant debate over the party’s policy plan has begun between its supporters and sceptics. From questioning the existence of the plan, to challenging the practicality of its timelines and its implementation process, the sceptics have contested all aspects of the elusive plan passionately and meticulously. The responses of the party’s supporters have been equally diverse ranging from assuring that there indeed is a plan, to arguing that the plan can’t be revealed as it may be copied and ultimately retorting that nobody else has a plan either.
Whilst the excitement over the plan and its feasibility may be due to the possibility of the party being a third option, recipes for revolutionising the system have always been popular. One such recipe is about how Pakistan can emulate Turkey. The Turkish model enjoys wide appeal across the political spectrum and has been endorsed by both conservatives and liberals. However, each group has its own interpretation on what the model represents.
Post 9/11, Musharraf advocated Ataturk’s secular-authoritarian regime to legitimise his rule. However, he was careful not to upset the mullahs and never went beyond the rhetoric of ‘enlightened moderation’, his wannabe version of Turkey’s secularism. Instead, he was more interested in promoting the Turkish experience of institutionalising the role of military in politics and argued that military oversight was necessary to prevent radicals from coming to power and for ensuring an orderly transition to democracy. To date, advocates of military rule argue that Pakistan is not ready for democracy and military tutelage is needed to ‘educate’ the people. However, there are considerable differences in the nature and history of the two countries’ militaries. Whilst the civil-military imbalance in Turkey has resulted in strengthening Turkey’s secularism, the civil-military imbalance in Pakistan has led to radicalisation of state and society. This is because Pakistan’s military has always patronised religious groups in order to legitimise and perpetuate its power.
The appeal of the Turkish Model for the Islamist parties in Pakistan lies in the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Islamic roots and its anti-Israel stance. To them, the Turkish Model represents an opportunity to come to power through democratic means rather than through military patronage.
For the masses, the Turkish model symbolises the ‘rags to riches’ transformation of Turkey’s economy under the AKP’s leadership. However, contrary to popular perception, Turkey’s economic success during 2002-2007 has not been due to the AKP’s innovative policies but because it embraced and successfully implemented an IMF-supported reform programme, the terms of which had been negotiated by the previous government. Another key factor in boosting Turkey’s economy has been AKP’s commitment to pro-European Union reforms, which has attracted high levels of foreign investment. Moreover, AKP’s support from the reform-minded business community has also played a key role in the country’s economic growth.
Though each group relates to a different aspect, the success of Turkey is a result of a variety of factors including the political role of its secular army, the AKP’s compatibility with secular democracy, its strong business community and its close historical, cultural and economic ties with Europe. As these factors are unique to Turkey and in sharp contrast to Pakistan’s context, the possibility of replicating the Turkish model seems unlikely. Therefore, instead of attempting to emulate other countries, we need to acknowledge and address our own demons and work towards making a Pakistani model.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.
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