Lessons from Turkey

Published: April 8, 2012
Turkish people need to watch out for some of Erdogan’s anti-democratic instincts. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Turkish people need to watch out for some of Erdogan’s anti-democratic instincts. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Successive civilian governments in Turkey, as in Pakistan, have had to tread fearfully around the all-powerful military for fear of being overthrown. In the last 50 years, the Turkish military has removed four governments from power. Finally, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party seem to be trying to alter the balance of power in favour of the civilians. The government’s decision to put on trial Kenan Everen, who as army chief led a coup and installed himself as president, is a reflection of the growing tide to keep the military as far away as possible from the levers of power. As a nation that would like a dose of justice for military adventurers at home ourselves, we should be cheering Turkey for its attempts to rein in the military.

There is certainly no doubt that Evren needs to be held accountable for his actions. Not only did he carry out a military coup against Turkey’s elected government in 1980, he also shredded the country’s constitution and was credibly accused of torture and executions. No country can move forward without accounting for its past. Putting Evren on trial will help the Turkish government dissuade other ambitious generals from lusting for power and will allow the Turkish people to get a sense of justice for the brutalities from Evren’s era.

None of this is to say, however, that Erdogan is the perfect vehicle for bringing the military to heel. In the past, Erdogan has shown a voracious appetite for power himself. In January, he arrested former army chief General Ilker Basbug for plotting to overthrow the government even though the evidence against him amount to little more but a few anti-government articles on the internet. Erdogan has also shown tremendous zeal in detaining opposition politicians, academics and journalists. His crusade against the might of the military is certainly laudable but the Turkish people need to watch out for some of Erdogan’s anti-democratic instincts. There will be little benefit from putting past tyrants on trial if it is accompanied by a new kind of tyranny.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Adnan Majeed
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:53PM

    Erdogan is going after the military because he wants to remove the last strong institution in Turkey that is standing as a barrier to religious extremism.Erdogan wants to turn back Ataturk’s legacy,he wants to dismantle the basis for modern day Turkey.the present regime in turkey is turning back the clock.They are reversing all measures taken by Ataturk in regards to secularism in Turkish society.
    Once the military is removed Erdogan will make Turkey into another Saudi Arabia or Iran.
    Ataturk’s Turkey is being destroyed by the religious fanatics in power today.


  • Shahzad Khan
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:59PM

    Mustafa Kemal Ataturk could never have imagined in his worst nightmare how the religious rightwing would destroy the Turkey he set out to create.
    Military rule is never desirable but the army in turkey is being held up as the bogeyman so erdogan’s party can carry out its real agenda of Islamification of a Secular Turkey.Erdogan is just Mullah Omar in a suit.
    Once the generals are out of his way,he’ll have jamaats and lashkars roaming around in Turkey.


  • Z
    Apr 9, 2012 - 1:17AM

    All Erdogan is doing is reflecting the will of his people. If the Turkish people feel he is overstepping his bounds, they will not re-elect him. What’s being advocated here is selective democracy, that it’s okay as long as it’s of a particular ideology. Isn’t that what these pages advocate when the likes of Zardari get ‘elected’?


  • Apr 9, 2012 - 1:56AM

    Nationalist totalitarian rule has been replaced by Islamic totalitarian regime.Recommend

  • Minto
    Apr 9, 2012 - 3:03AM

    What a load of intellectual dishonesty by Adnan and Shahzad in the comments below. Erdogan’s AK Party has democratically ruled Turkey since 2002 and the facts pre-AKP and post-AKP speak for themselves. Turkey’s economy was in shambles, military was all powerful, tensions were on the rise with Armenia, and the Kurdish minority was treated with disdain. AKP has completely changed the scenario and Turkey’s economic growth rivaled that of China with 8.5% GDP growth in 2011after racking up 9% a year before. Simply because Erdogan and AKP is Islamic leaning you compare him with Mullah Omar, Saudi Arabia or Iran? I despise religious extremist but I also abhor extremist secularist who support a secular military establishment responsible for the killing and torture of hundreds of its own citizens. Thank God our founder was a moderate Muslim rather than Mustafa Kemal- your beloved Turkish military threw a politician in jail for chewing gum while laying wreath on Kemal’s mausoleum.


  • Mirza
    Apr 9, 2012 - 8:32AM

    Two things to point out here.
    Turkish army is not a regional but a national army and most men have to perform military services. This is the main difference between Turkish and Pakistani army.
    Nobody can deny the fact that after reigning in the army generals Turkey has made tremendous progress in terms of economy, prosperity and political influence in the region and respect in the world. I have always disliked the religious parties but even the Turkish religious party is less extreme than Pakistan’s mainstream rightwing parties. Turkey is not breeding terrorism and jihadist.


  • Truth_Prevails
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:35PM

    All good was made possible in Turkey only and only because Tayyip Erdogan is an honest leader. Get a guy like him with the power he has and see Pakistan in top ranks in virtually no time!


  • Zezu
    Apr 9, 2012 - 4:14PM

    Can we outsource our Country to Edrogan / Turkey ?? He will get things right.


  • ali
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:13PM

    A religious govt in turkey has made it a military and economic powerhouse. While a liberal secular govt. in Pakistan has destroyed the country…


  • Cautious
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:50PM

    Erdogan isn’t perfect – but he had the guts to take on the military – don’t see Zardari having that kind of steel.


  • SM
    Apr 9, 2012 - 8:50PM

    Pakistan has the exact opposite of Erdogan – we have Zardari who claims that all is well and Pakistan is progressing far ahead of the rest of the world. I know one area it is exceling in – CORRUPTION !!!


  • kaalchakra
    Apr 10, 2012 - 9:06PM

    Both Turkey and Indonesia shall be Islamic, just like all other Islamic nations. Then these will become a truly great nation.


  • Yusuf
    Apr 30, 2012 - 1:49PM

    Everyone who says bad things about Erdogan should shut their trap, just because Erdogan opposed against Israel and refused to fight against Libya doesnt mean he is a bad president, Erdogan is the best president that Turkey could have and Ataturk’s Legacy was full of Hatred, discrimination, execution of ottoman Turks and the reason of chaos in Middle eastern…


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