Turkey: then and now

By admin Jan26,2023 #Pakistan #Turkey

A nemesis for Europe’s Christian kingdoms for centuries, Turkey was a natural source of inspiration to the Muslim world as a mighty sultanate-cum-caliphate. Misfortune fell upon the house of Othman when the Sultan joined Germany and Japan to finish as the vanquished of WWI.

The great colonial powers of France and Britain lost no time in parcelling out the Ottoman provinces as new states of the Arab world. However, they failed to occupy the Turkish heartland of Anatolia as the Turks fought heroically against the allied armies and forced them to withdraw.

Buoyed by their success, Turkish generals – led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha – seized the opportunity to abolish a decadent monarchy occupied more by affairs of the harem than facing challenges of the twentieth century. India’s Muslims, who had risen in protest to the Western aggression against Turkey, appealed to Kemal Pasha to spare the caliphate but that had the opposite effect as he hastened to formally abolish it.

It was a completely new order, Turkish rather than pan-Islamic, republican and secular. The Turkish alphabet was changed to Latin, the clergy purged and the veils discarded. A new order in every sense.

Thus began a new phase of Turkey inspiring the Muslim world – or at least part of it – as a modernising secular power. The Shah of Iran was motivated and so was the king of Afghanistan to introduce certain reforms a la Turkey, within their monarchical framework.

Fast forward to the 1970s. Following the overthrow of the monarchy in Afghanistan (1973) and Iran (1979) Z A Bhutto was hanged in Pakistan, prompting the French daily Le Monde to carry an editorial captioned ‘The end of Kemalism’. All three had shown only minor elements of Kemalism but the editorial’s symbolism was pertinent.

The 1980s marked a rapid rise of political Islam in Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the course of my posting at our embassy in Ankara from 1988 to 1992, it became clear that while Kemalism was still well entrenched particularly in the army, the Islamists were gathering strength with slogans of justice and good governance. The Refah party of Necmettin Erbakan, greatly admired by Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami, reached the Turkish national assembly and gained over 50 seats by virtue of the proportional system of representation.

Erbakan hosted a historic Iftar dinner for Muslim ambassadors in the assembly building which I attended as Pakistan’s charge d’affaires. While addressing the gathering, he evoked the Muslim conquest of Constantinople (1453) and declared that his party’s entry into parliament was just a beginning. True to his promise, Erbakan did become prime minister later, only to be sequestered by the all-powerful army. His Refah party was banned in the name of saving the secular order enshrined in the constitution.

That military’s coup de force had the opposite reaction among the masses and resulted in massive victories for Erbakan’s heir Recep Tayyip Erdogan leading the reincarnated Islamist party as AKP. After serving as an all-powerful prime minister for 12 years, Erdogan faced the constitutional limit on prime ministerial terms. He had himself elected as president and began efforts to institute the presidential system in Turkey. All has not been well since then.

There is considerable opposition to Erdogan’s plans to tailor the political system according to his own needs. Prime Minister Davutoglu’s removal was indicative of fissures within the AKP. More ominously, the Turkish president had planned to purge his opponents in the judiciary, police and the armed forces. Whether the short-lived recent mutiny was provoked to carry out a purge is a matter of debate.

The mutineers were killed or cornered but that in no way is the end of story. Turkey’s socio-political fault lines have widened after the ‘attempted coup’. The nation is torn between a dwindling breed of diehard Kemalists, moderate secularists, Erdogan-supporting Islamists and what the Turkish ambassador to Pakistan calls Gulen’s ‘terrorists’. Ambassador Girgin lamented that the Western powers were slow to criticise the coup attempt and came to support the constitutional government only after the people had defeated the mutiny. He acknowledged Pakistan’s support in condemning the coup attempt.

There are indications that Turkish people of varied political orientations are presently gripped by fear, tension, and uncertainty. The country is navigating through troubled waters and the future looks less promising and serene. The situation has been exacerbated by a massive purge carried out by the ruling party. Following the detention or removal of thousands of armed forces and police personnel, judges, teachers and civil servants, the government has begun a hunt for ‘enemies’ in the media.

No less disturbing was the campaign orchestrated by the rulers to whip up mass hysteria among the ordinary people against the ‘traitors’. In a short span of time, Turkey’s image as a democratic Islamic republic has been turned into one of an elected dictatorship.

A debate has been raging over the lessons to be drawn by us from the failed coup in Turkey. While the PML-N and the PPP feel relieved over the failure of Turkey’s putschists, Imran Khan used the opportunity to warn our rulers by evoking scenes of jubilation if something like that was to happen in Pakistan.

Imran must have overlooked an important fact while making that comment; the PTI has been at the helm in a province for over three years and now belongs to the ruling class. Who will arrange the distribution of mithai in Peshawar and other cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?

July 31, 2016

Source : https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/138973-Turkey-then-and-now

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