In an address to parliament that was nothing short of a scolding by an elder sibling – a well settled one at that, – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan advised Pakistan’s political leadership to avoid going too far in their rivalry, lest it costs them the democratic system itself.
The Turkish prime minister, who has already completed two highly successful terms as premier since 2003 and is currently in his third, enjoys good relations with the Pakistani government and opposition alike.
In his extempore speech, delivered in Turkish, to a joint session of parliament, Prime Minister Erdogan had plenty of advice for an increasingly cantankerous opposition in Pakistan: “The real role of the opposition is not to criticise the government merely for the sake of criticism but to point out the ills that need to be corrected.”
Just the Turkish prime minister’s presence had a calming effect on the burgeoning tension between the government and the opposition – evident from the fact that, not only were most Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentarians in attendance, but Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was also present.
The last few sessions of parliament have seen the opposition raise hell – including sloganeering, protesting and walking out – in order to press for the resignation of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, following his conviction by the Supreme Court in a contempt case last month.
Though there was no mention of a speech by the opposition leader on the agenda for the day, the National Assembly speaker provided an opportunity to Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to make a statement.
“I would be frank,” Nisar said, “it is because of you that we have put all our differences aside to honour and welcome a true friend of Pakistan.”
He welcomed the Turkish prime minister saying “You (Tayyip Erdogan) have come at a very difficult time for us. We, as a country, are facing problems globally and locally.” He reiterated that the opposition was present only because of him.
Appreciating Turkey’s stance on issues related to Palestine, Israel and Kashmir, Nisar said that taking such a position qualifies Erdogan to play the role of a spokesman for the Islamic world. Nisar suggested that Erdogan act as a bridge between the west and Islamic world. The Turkish prime minister’s about 20-minute speech earned him a huge round of applause, as parliamentarians expressed their gratitude through desk thumping.
Premier Erdogan will also hold meetings with key political leaders, including PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and other groups out to dislodge the government. The Turkish premier, thought to be one of the most respected world leaders across Pakistan’s political spectrum, is visiting the country amid simmering uncertainty in Pakistan – on the domestic and global fronts.
Turkey, it should be added, is also a member of Nato – whose supply route in Afghanistan has been blocked by Pakistan for six months now.
“A strong democratic system in Pakistan could lead to an equally strong economic system that could benefit its people,” he said, while advising the youth to come forward and participate in the national democratic process. He said there was heavy responsibility on the nation’s parliamentarians.
Erdogan also noted the huge sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in fight against terrorism during the recent years and said “We understand your pain and will continue to stand by you in the days ahead.” He assured that Turkey and Pakistan would stand together in the fight against terrorism and that the trilateral arrangement among Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan would continue to build towards regional peace.
Prime Minister Gilani thanked his Turkish counterpart, saying his second address to Parliament was another milestone in the long and glorious journey of friendship of two countries. Earlier, Speaker NA Dr. Fehmida Mirza welcomed PM Erdogan saying he was the only foreign leader to have addressed Pakistan’s Parliament twice.
After the joint session, Shahbaz Sharif said that the opposition had put aside its differences with the government only to welcome Prime Minister Erdogan, who had helped Pakistan in every hour of need. When asked for comments over PM Erdogan’s suggestion for the opposition to play its due role, he said, “how can we remain tightlipped when the PM is a convict and has allegations of corruption.”
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said that PML-N’s presence reflected maturity which will have a positive impact on political environment.
Later Prime Minster Gilani held a dinner in honour of Premier Erdogan – which was also attended by a well-behaved opposition.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.