Local ingredients, Turkish recipe

Published: June 18, 2011
The writer is an undergraduate student at Harvard University, Class of 2014 and tweets @ibrahimakhan.

The writer is an undergraduate student at Harvard University, Class of 2014 and tweets @ibrahimakhan.

In 2002, an economic collapse in Turkey led to elections and the removal of an unpopular government supported by an irresponsible military. The Turkish people brought the conservative Justice and Development (AK) Party into power. Despite several setbacks, chief among them threatening declarations from the military and the arrest and jailing of their leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the AK Party focused on transforming Turkey into a stable and progressive regional powerhouse.

On June 12, in Turkey’s general elections, the AK Party was elected to a third consecutive term as the single party in government, after it received 49.91 per cent of the vote. The party continues to remain popular and that is primarily due to its ability to turn Turkey’s fortunes around. Prior to 2002, for years the country had double-digit inflation. You bought a cup of tea for two million liras. Now, inflation is below that of the United Kingdom. In 2010, the Turkish economy grew at 8.9 per cent. This year, the growth figure is supposed to top that.

Political and social advancement has followed economic progress. The civilian-military tension exists to some extent, but the military now maintains its constitutional role while allowing the democratically elected government to govern. The situation did not reach this stage by blatant disregard and disrespect of the military, but rather after recognition of the uniquely influential roles of both the military and civilian leadership. Politicking motivated by self-interest is no longer an issue. With a single party government, decision-making is far easier. Tourism is flourishing — Turkey is showcasing itself to the world on a daily basis.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, has also contributed to this turnaround. Historically, Turkey has had tense relations with its neighbours while it has submitted to the will of western powers. In the past decade, that has changed. Turkey has now adopted a much-heralded ‘zero problem policy’ under which it intends to have good relations with all of its neighbours. Ethnic conflict involving the Kurdish minority has been handled in a thoughtful and mature manner. Actionable intelligence coupled with political progress has severely reduced the risk of terror. Turkey’s past submission to western powers like the United States has now transformed into a positive relationship that is based on mutual understanding and benefit. Turkey approaches the United States on equal footing, as an ally, not a proxy.

The Turkish turnaround is not magic, but the result of skilled management. This progress is not false or fiction, it is all real. And it is possible to replicate. We now have a democracy and with that the chance to elect a government that can deliver. We have talented technocrats who can help turn our economy around. We have the natural beauty and hospitable population that tourism is built on. We need the political maturity and leadership exhibited by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan. We need a zero problem neighbourhood based on a foreign policy that involves allied relationships. Terror needs to be controlled, intolerance rejected and internal conflict solved. None of this is impossible. We must not lose hope, as without it, we lose the impetus for change.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2011.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (31)

  • saleem khan
    Jun 18, 2011 - 2:15AM

    Agree. With the exception of combating terrorism and foreign policy (which is in the hands of our Dangerous Duffers and who have eaten up our economy as well), the current democratic government has done things in the last 3 years which were not done since Bhutto Era. I am 100 percent confident that the political parties do have a greater vision for our country. One thing the democratic forces needs is to snatch the powers of their people from the Army and things will begin to improve. Recommend

  • Architect
    Jun 18, 2011 - 3:00AM

    very well written.. Recommend

  • Ali
    Jun 18, 2011 - 4:53AM

    Imran Khan and PTI have been giving the example of Turkey on all the interviews and talk shows. Funny they are also have Justice in their party name. InshaAllah he will bring this change!Recommend

  • rizwan sheikh
    Jun 18, 2011 - 10:25AM

    the downfall of turkey has started.Ataturk had made turkey into a vibrant,forward moving secular country with a secular constitution but now the islamic fascists have grabbed power and are conspiring to change the turkish constitution.erdogan already makes his wife wear a hijab,if he gets to have his way this islamic fanatic will make all the turkish women feel ashamed of their gender and make them hide behind black tents.

    The turkish army should intervene or they’ll have another somalia on their hands as the islamic radicals will introduce public stoning of women,chopping off of hands and feet and they’ll allow paedophile men to marry 9 year old girl children.Recommend

  • sarmad khan
    Jun 18, 2011 - 10:27AM

    Ataturk the great must be rolling over in his grave.The mullahs have taken over his country and our bent upon destroying turkey to fulfill their vision of religious extremism.They’ll make turkey like our tribal areas,do the turkish people want to live like the people in FATA do? do they want their women treated as we treat or rather mistreat ours???Recommend

  • Irshad Khan
    Jun 18, 2011 - 10:56AM

    Very good analysis of Turkish problems and they tackled them successfully. Shall we will also learn from them? But we are a nation of personalities worshippers and how they deceived and paralysed our systems and brought the country to a point of collapse. Similarly now we have all hopes from Imran Khan; though he has no team of good country managers. Further, he do not accept any body equal to him and abuses every body even losing temper on TV shows. He is too stubborn and proud person as looks from his behaviour. How will he behave to other co-workers and system runners in the country? From his behaviour he is a PAGRI UCHAL JATTA character! Will he behave in the same way to foreign dignatories and will start fighting with tables and chairs in conferance rooms.Recommend

  • asghar jamal
    Jun 18, 2011 - 11:25AM

    @sarmad khan:

    turkey is heading for disaster.turkish women should ready themselves for living like second class citizens and being forced to do everything the men in their family command them to do.All their self respect,independence is about to got out the window,from now on they’ll be forced to walk around in black walking prisons and their husbands will be allowed to commit polygamy.islamic fanatics will now dictate terms and turkey will go back towards the dark ages now.Recommend

  • The Critique
    Jun 18, 2011 - 12:45PM

    turkey is fortunate that it doesnt have neighbors like ours!Recommend

  • rifaye
    Jun 18, 2011 - 1:29PM

    @critique : you doesnt know anything abt history, just type foreign policy of turkey, and will see hell loads of problem that turkey is having with its neighbour.

    historically, turkey and greece are rivals, as each claim for genocide of its population and claiming of aegaean island. later greece occupied cyprus, and turkey attached greek force in cyprus and ocupied northern part. still that island is a disputed islan in un, with UN recognizing greek part of cyprus and not turkish part..turkey is also have problem with armenia too,which starts from world war 1..

    the only lesson to be learnt is, turkey dont create terrorist and sent across the border, which my neighbour pakistan will never do..Recommend

  • Ihk
    Jun 18, 2011 - 1:45PM

    @rizwan sheikh:
    I say forcing someone NOT to wear hijab is greater sign of oppression.

    Advocate freedom to choose!Recommend

  • AK
    Jun 18, 2011 - 1:49PM

    Turkey and Pakistan are similiar in many ways. Both are middle powers who have a growing potential with their manpower. Both have lots of economic potential and a resilient work force. Both have large armed forces and enjoy substantial influence in Muslim politics. Both are also over 95% Muslim countries; yet this is the part where we differ.

    They, despite being 95% Muslim, have maintained liberalism and moderation in society. We are going reverse. But then, Turkey does not face many of the problems that Pakistan has today. While Turkey has geopolitical importance as it comes in both Europe and Asian spheres of influence, we also have geopolitical strategic importance. The only different thing is that our neighbours are unfortunately the worst that you can think of.

    May God never give any country the type of neighbours Pakistan has. Recommend

  • Jun 18, 2011 - 2:33PM

    @rifaye: I was in such a pleasant mood after reading the aricle, untill i saw you, imbecile indian. Look whose talking, who nurture extremists like baal thakrey talks about Pakistan exporting terrorists. Get yourselves a face first that you are able to show us than talk. again trolling on what is supposed to be a website catering Pakistanis. Turkey is doing well and is a very pleasant source of inspiration for me atleast. it shares similar affairs as Pakistan. Military has an important role as every other politician is corrupt which gives the military a chance to intervene. So a very similar stake sharing would have to be done here in Pakistan as well.Recommend

  • Ahmad Ali
    Jun 18, 2011 - 2:43PM

    @sarmad khan:

    Dogmatism thy name is Sarmad Khan!!Recommend

  • Arslan
    Jun 18, 2011 - 3:20PM

    Good – really good – article, and even better (implicit) comparison with Pakistan, and it’s weird that despite all of this, some people talk of ‘veil’… honestly, if a party do what AKP did (in terms of big socio-economic developments), do you really think that they (Turkish men and women) care about the veil ? Be practical guys!Recommend

  • vasan
    Jun 18, 2011 - 5:03PM

    AK : May God never create another country like Pakistan.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jun 18, 2011 - 6:11PM

    Turkey was light years ahead of Pakistan long before the AKP came into power. The primary difference between Turkey and Pakistan isn’t a political party nor the military – it’s that Turkey is a secular nation who’s economic engine is dependent on Europe. As far as foreign policy — the author is lacking in knowledge — many would argue that the Erdogan/Davutoglu have blundered from one foreign policy debacle to another still looking for their first foreign policy victory.Recommend

  • Andrea
    Jun 18, 2011 - 6:19PM

    @rifaye: Why don’t you Indians work to stop the state terrorism in Kashmir and finally allow the people there to decide their own course for freedom in accordance with UN resolutions which demand that the local people should decide. Shame on you for ignoring your own misdeeds!Recommend

  • kailash sethy
    Jun 18, 2011 - 8:00PM

    Yeah. just wait for 10-15 yrs more. If the direction in which Turkey is moving if at least not arrested(ideally reversed) Turkey’s position will be below Pakistan….They r just reaping fruits not what erdogan done but secular culture before that.. Remember IRAN before the revolution and look at them now.. anyone remember?
    Societies r better being secular not Islamist or any other religion..Recommend

  • safir
    Jun 18, 2011 - 8:10PM

    well said ibrahim khan may allah bless u and we need leaders like Tyyeb ordogan all over
    the mid east and espacialy in pakistan.Recommend

  • Saif M
    Jun 18, 2011 - 8:22PM

    The one critical difference between Turkey and Pakistan is that Turkey is constitutionally a secular state while Pakistan is a theocracy. Theocracies are unlikely to make progress in this day and age.Recommend

  • Ahmad Ali
    Jun 18, 2011 - 8:28PM

    @rizwan sheikh:

    Dear oh dear…..

    Which fool could possibly say Erdogan is anything but an inspiring statesman. Even the EU applaueded Erdogan’s reforms, unless you are suggesting the EU is secretly run by the Wahabbis..

    Oh well….Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Alam
    Jun 18, 2011 - 8:29PM


    You state that “many would argue that the [sic] Erdogan/Davutoglu have blundered from one foreign policy debacle to another still looking for their first foreign policy victory.” Would you care to share specifics about these “blunders” as I cannot recall many. Instead, contrary to what you state, Turkey’s has grown tremendously and is regularly recognized for their strategic depth doctrine now known as neo-Ottomanism. Here’s a link that cites a specific example; it should definitely educate you: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/05/20/turkeys_zero_problems_foreign_policy. Incidentally, the article linked is titled, “Turkey’s Zero-Problem Foreign Policy.”Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Alam
    Jun 18, 2011 - 9:00PM


    If that still doesn’t convince you, watch this: http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/empire/2011/06/201161682640911172.html?utmcontent=newsAJEContentFireHose&utmcampaign=socialflowtest&utmsource=twitter&utmterm=twitter&utmmedium=tweet.Recommend

  • asif iqbal
    Jun 18, 2011 - 9:18PM

    @Kailash Sethy: How do you define “Islamist”? Leaders of the current Turkish government are personally religious, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t secular. Please get your facts straight.Recommend

  • safir
    Jun 18, 2011 - 10:53PM

    @saif m
    what pakistan is i still dont understand after fourty years of my age u have democr
    acy joint dictatorship british law plus shariah law tribal law plus no law parties based
    on language and reliegous parties based on firqa which we called maktaba what els
    u call it turkey is differnt because they are not choo choo ka muraba.Recommend

  • safir
    Jun 18, 2011 - 10:56PM

    @ mr kailash
    indian is secular then why they ban on cow sluoghtering.Recommend

  • Ali
    Jun 18, 2011 - 10:58PM

    too bad but women are not allowed to do Hijab. HIJAB is ban in colleges universities & schools. so called turkey can’t tolerate religious freedome.Recommend

  • ashwin
    Jun 18, 2011 - 11:04PM

    Comparing turkey with Pakistan will be like comparing a Pakistan to Afghanistan.Hope you get the drift. why not Pakistan try to emulate Bangladesh, which has better contract with it’s people.Recommend

  • Abdullah
    Jun 18, 2011 - 11:15PM

    Good article Mr. Khan. My generation has lost hope in our politicians. Our only hope are the young generation, who can maybe one day turn our country around. I heard, that Nawaz Sharif gave the example of the Turkish model in his speech today and I also Heard Shaukat Tareen on Mazhar Abbas’s talk show, talking about the Turkish Economic revival. It seems your article made an impact young man. At least they are talking about imitating a success story. But as always, I don’t expect it to go beyond words. Our politicians are incompetent.Recommend

  • junaid shafi
    Jun 19, 2011 - 3:16AM

    @ashwin I certainly didn’t get the drift.Recommend

  • let there be peace
    Jun 19, 2011 - 11:40AM

    someone here said about someone ‘he is religious(Muslim) as well as secular’. that is fascinating terminology. if a
    ‘secular religious Muslim’ can exist then I’m sure people can start claiming to be ‘tolerant liberal Nazi’
    I don’t know much about Turkish economy but I remember reading that Nazi Germany under Hitler made great economic progress in short time. that is cannot be an argument for justifying fascism. what is evil is evil.Recommend

More in Opinion