MUZAFFARABAD: Tens of thousands of people defied a curfew and took to the streets to defeat the attempted military coup in Turkey, because President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had put the country on the road to economic prosperity by retiring foreign debt, controlling inflation and maintaining a steady growth rate.
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Though some experts cited poor planning for the coup’s failure, it was, in fact, Erdogan’s economic achievements that made the Turks rally behind him. Since he came to power in November 2002, economic growth has averaged some 5%. Inflation has been tamed, while in 2005 he also achieved something that had eluded all his predecessors: the start of membership talks with the European Union.
“The Turkish people came out in the streets to save democracy because their leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has made their country economically prosperous and retired all debt,” Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan said while addressing a rally in Chaksawari Mirpur, 200 kilometres away from the AJK capital Muzaffarabad on Sunday.
Between 2002 — the year Erdogan came to power — and 2012, the economy grew by 64% in terms of real GDP, while in terms of GDP per capita, the economy grew by 43%. The growth came despite the fact that Erdogan inherited a $23.5 billion debt from International Monetary Fund (IMF). By 2012, this debt was reduced $900 million. According to Bloomberg, he managed to decrease government debt to about 40% of GDP from 78%.
People in Pakistan will celebrate, distribute sweets if army takes over: Imran
In 2013, Turkey ended its 52-year relationship with the IMF. Erdogan opted not to sign a new deal, declaring that the international lender could now borrow from Turkey. In 2002, the Turkish Central Bank had $26.5 billion in reserves. This amount reached $92.2 billion in 2011. Under Erdogan’s leadership, inflation fell from 32% to 9.0% in 2004.
“In Pakistan, on the contrary, foreign debt is piling up, while the bank accounts of the Sharif family are swelling,” Imran told a cheering crowd. “We have a civilian dictatorship in Pakistan under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif. This dictatorship, not the army, is a big threat to democracy,” he said. “People will distribute sweets if the army staged a coup in Pakistan,” he added.
People supported Erdogan against the military because he also brought about a visible change in the country’s infrastructure. The number of airports in Turkey was increased from 26 to 50, while some 13,500km of expressway was built between 2002 and 2011. High speed railway lines were constructed for the first time in Turkey’s history and a high-speed train service chugged off in 2009, while 1,076km of railway line was laid and another 5,449km was refurbished.
Imran criticised the Nawaz administration for ignoring the healthcare system which lay in a shambles in Pakistan. Erdogan invested more in Turkey’s healthcare system than any of his predecessors. According to World Bank data, health spending per capita rose from $189 in 2002 to $555 in 2012. His government introduced a Green Card programme which provides free health benefits to the poor.
There has been a crescendoing demand for an independent inquiry from the opposition since the Panama Papers revealed in April this year that three scions of the Sharif family are among hundreds of Pakistani politicians and businessmen who have secreted their money offshore in a tax haven.
“Pakistanis are amongst one of the most charitable nations in the world, but they avoid paying taxes because they know their money will be misused by the ruling elite,” Imran said. “If Nawaz Sharif believes in democracy, then he should come to parliament and answer our questions over the Panama Papers revelations,” he added. “In fact, there is a monarchy in the name of democracy in Pakistan run by monarch Nawaz Sharif.”
Imran said he would launch a countrywide street movement to press for the accountability of Nawaz Sharif who has looted the country and deposited the money in his bank accounts abroad.
Imran was campaigning for his party’s candidates in AJK where general elections are scheduled for later this month. the PTI chairman alleged that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the National Accountability Bureau could not work independently because they were influenced by the government.
Military ‘coup’ in Turkey
Imran also decried lack of justice in Pakistan. “Fourteen innocent people, among them three women, were killed in Lahore’s Model Town, but the FIR has not been registered thus far,” he said referring to the 2014 police action at the headquarters of Allama Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
“The entire nation knows who killed those innocent people and why their families have been denied justice. It is time to rise against the dictatorship of the Sharif brothers,” he added.
President of the AJK chapter of PTI Barrister Sultan Mehmood also addressed the rally and accused the incumbent AJK prime minister, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, of corruption and misuse of funds.
There has been violence in AJK in the run-up to the elections, triggering calls for holding vote under the army’s supervision. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan Sunday granted the army powers to supervise security and law and order in AJK during the upcoming elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2016.
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