In becoming the first foreign leader to address a joint sitting of parliament twice, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered a bromide-ridden speech to his Pakistani counterparts. According to Erdogan, the democratic process is vital to a country’s economy and can help strengthen it. No one will disagree with this, though there may be some who will say that the opposite may also be true: that before one can have democracy, one needs to have a sound economy. Unfortunately, in Pakistan neither seems possible because what we really have is a kleptocracy, and so a speech discussing corruption would have been more relevant. Kleptocracy is a form of political and government corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class (military, feudal, businessmen) at the expense of the wider population, often without even the pretense of honest service, such as now. This type of government corruption is often achieved by the embezzlement of state funds. Therefore, we can only agree with the Turkish prime minister on this in a hypothetical way — and perhaps some time in the future we can hope that our existing kleptocracy will morph into a genuine democracy of sorts.
It would also be pertinent to mention that the Turkish prime minister needs to put into action the good advice he has proffered Pakistan in his own country. His government has used Turkey’s strong economy to carry out a series of anti-democratic attacks on the opposition. In some cases, the actions can be justified as rectifying the balance of power in favour of civilians. But opposition civilian politicians, members of academia and many journalists have been arrested. Further, the government continues to behave brutally towards its Kurdish minority and still refuses to accept the Armenian genocide.
As such, a strong economic base in itself will not necessarily strengthen democracy – China is a good example of this although we do believe that China’s growth will eventually stall until it also begins to give its citizens more political freedom. Turkey is not yet a shining example of the country we need to emulate and we think there’s little to be learned in either case from their example because Turkey has not been, and is not, a kleptocracy.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2012.
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