Air Commodore ® KhaIid Iqbal
Within less than a decade Turkey has really turned around in almost all strategic aspects. In 2002, it suffered from almost all the ills that Pakistan is facing today. A sinking economy, political instability, ‘junta’ dominated civil-military equation and polarized society were the hall-marks of Turkey. It prided itself with secular ideals and shunned its Muslim identity. Getting the membership of European Union was a matter of life and death.
Nevertheless, this was the profile of the state only. Public sentiment was quite the opposite. Shrine going jeans wearing youngsters, privately praying elderly and masses flocking to see the Islamic relics in the specially arranged centers represented the simmering attachment of the public with Islam. Undercurrents were visible indicating that people were looking for an outlet, an opportunity and a genuine political leadership.
Earlier Prime Minister Najmudin Erbkan’s government had represented the Islamic aspirations of the Turkish people. His government came to power in 1996, but was ousted by ‘Junta’ in 1997, and elderly Erbkan was later jailed on flimsy charges.Late Erbakan is referred to as the “teacher” of a number of Turkey’s leading political figures. He was indeed the mentor of current leadership including President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Theyowe Najmudin Erbkanthe foundation of their political thought process.
Third consecutive victory of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) indicates amazing confidence reposed by the people of Turkey in the leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan, who has taken bold and visionary decisions for the uplift of his people and to carve out a place of respect for the country in the comity of nations. Before becoming the prime minster, Erdogan had already established his credential as charismatic leader, a visionary, and as an agent of change during his tenure as Mayor of Istanbul during 1994-98.
Ruling party has clinched a record landslide (50.3%) in last week’s parliamentary polls. It is party’s highest electoral tally since it came to power. However, AKPfell short of the two-third majority in the parliament, which it was eagerly seeking to amend the constitution; which is a legacy of a 1980 military coup. Nevertheless, third time around mandate to AKP is a clear proof of approval of its policies by majority of the nation. The electoral outcome is indeed a potent endorsement of the balance between economic liberalism and religious conservatism offered by Erdogan.
The main opposition ‘Republican People’s Party’ (CHP) is second with 25.9%, followed by the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) with 13.1%. Out of national population of around 73 million, more than 50 million people were eligible to vote;turnout was around 87 per cent.Generally the voting was peaceful and orderly, with large crowds gathered to cast ballots. For the first time, voters cast ballots in transparent plastic boxes. The measure was designed to prevent any allegations of fraud. These elections arean indicator of stability in an increasingly confident country.
This victory is a tribute to the excellent performance of the AKP which has presided over strong economic growth and has adopted an assertive foreign policy. Per capita income of the country, which tripled to $10,079 during the tenure of AKP is indicative of the success of its economic policies; the party aims to further jack it up to $25,000 by 2023, when Turks commemorate the centenary of the Turkish Republic.
The AKP owes its enduring popularity mostly to economic success and improved public services following years of financial instability.The growth rate last year was 8.9 per cent,the second highest among G-20 nations after China. Turkey has become an economic powerhouse and influential player on the global stage. Inflation, which had, for decades, adversely affected the country's economy, was brought under control and the Turkish Lira regained its former prestige through the elimination of six zeros. As prime minister, Erdogan implemented numerous reforms. Forty five years after Turkey signed an Association Agreement with the EU, the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU started during Erdogan's tenure, and that too in a respectable way.
Erdogan’s foreign policy reflects the sentiments of the Turkish people, in the context of daunting challenge facing the Muslim Ummah. Middle-East, Afghanistan, and Kashmir issue have attracted his special attention. His initiatives like brokering an arrangement between Brazil and Iran to avert a nuclear impasse during ‘NPT Review Conference of 2010’, opening of an office for Taliban in Turkey, abstention in UNSC resolution 1973 pertaining establishment of no fly zone over Libya, and refusal to participate in NATO operations in Libya are reflections of a robust foreign policy with Islamic inclinations. Turkey has repeatedly spoken for the rights of protesters in uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. On symbolic plane, he has snatched back the respect for ‘Hijab from Sarkozy’s fanatic jaws.
‘Freedom Flotilla’ episode in 2010 brought the Palestinian issue under intense international focus. Israel committed high sea piracy against a modest convoy of six boats carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Nine innocent pacifists were killed and the boats were impounded. Reaction by the comity of nations and agencies like UN, OIC and Arab League etc was of severe denunciation of Israel’s brutal acts. Erdogan came out with flying colours by expressing his desire to join the struggle by being on board such subsequent Flotilla to break the inhuman blockade of Gaza. He indeed set the tempo for rest of the statesmen to follow. Due to his defiant rhythm, pressure snowballed on Israel resulting into prompt release of prisoners.
In his post election victory speech,Erdogan said “We will be humble,” he pledged to start work on a new constitution. “We will be seeking consensus with the main opposition, the opposition parties outside of parliament, the media, NGOs, with academics, with anyone who has something to say.” In his victory speech, Erdogan alluded to Turkey’s ambitions as a regional leader and voice for Muslims, declaring that Bosnians, Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians would benefit as much from the election as the Turks.
Turkey stands out as an island of peace in a region marred with uprisings and instability. The government says it seeks to craft a Western-style democracy and join the European Union. However, its Islamic roots are a source of suspicion among secular circles that once dominated Turkey with the military help. Once in power, secular fanatics had given Turkey poverty, dependence and instability.During recent years, the government has sharply reduced the political clout of the military, and taken some steps to ease restrictions on minorities. Erdogan has promised that the new constitution would be more democratic and would include “basic rights and freedoms”. Beside economic success, Erdogan’s sustained public support has been built on ending decades of chaotic coalitions, military coups and failed international financial bailouts.
Erdogan’s victory has been received with joy in Pakistan because the Turkish Prime Minister has been instrumental in bringing the two nations still closer. The resolve shown by him and his spouse in helping the flood and earth quake affected masses has earned him a permanent place in the hearts of Pakistani people.
Turkey presents a role model for Pakistan. Public sentiment in Pakistan is indeed on a look out for its Erdogan