Turkey Coup: Lessons for Pakistan!

(Sadia Raza, )

Maryam Fazal
An attempt was made on July 15 to topple the elected government of President Erdogan. The momentum of this military coup was so slow that it was put down promptly by huge crowd of unarmed masses. Ill-planned, poorly coordinated and unintelligently conducted, without the full military organs involvement, especially the secret services, it was doomed to failure. President Erdogan did steal the show by timely reaching to the people of his constituency through social media, thanks to his good governance and sustained economy. The masses there do admire the armed forces but the resistance they showed was more for democracy to continue than President Erdogan who has already proved, during the last 14 years of rule that a democratic government under an able leadership can deliver better.

Pakistani media since then, and the sitting government politicians, are cautiously drawing lessons as to what happens if a similar coup is made in Pakistan. In my view such a comparison cannot be made as the situation in Pakistan is far more different from that of Turkey and no comparison can be made between the armed forces of both the countries. There is a difference in how the Turkish coup was carried out, and how martial law is usually implemented in Pakistan. As per past experiences, the Pakistan Army has never attempted to damage the government or public property, destabilize the political structure of government and deform the constitutional setup. It is only when the civil leaders invite the military to run government affairs. The Pakistan military has always remained united under its command without seeing an iota of difference.

The era of martial laws has long gone. The experience draws the conclusion that toppling democratically elected governments is no longer in national interest, despite provocations from inimical quarters and the masses. Top military hierarchy now makes it clear, time and again, that the elected leaderships need to concentrate on good governance and providing replacements to the space created through the military operations. In international arena particularly western stakes in Afghanistan and Syria are quite different. Establishment of National Security Council in Pakistan is also an important variable.

In the past military interventions took place for a number of reasons. Firstly, Pakistan Army never turned over a politically stable government. Gen Ayub Khan was invited by Iskandar Mirza himself due to deteriorating political conditions of the state. Gen Yahya took over when the political parties in East Pakistan and West Pakistan failed to show any maturity. Gen Zia was invited by the political forces after 1977 election results. Gen Musharraf took over when the Prime Minister tried to forcefully change the army high command. The situation today is different from those scenarios in the past. Democracy for first time seems stable in Pakistan. First time in the history of the country, the PPP completed five years in office. Despite dharna insinuations and umpire intervention signalling, PTI and PAT had to go back.

Secondly, there has never been any sign of division in the ranks of armed forces. The only discrepancy was Operation Midnight Jackals carried out in early 90s where a Brigadier and a Major wished to topple the Benazir government without the consent of higher command. The way the military dealt with the officers set a precedence that the institution would show no leniency to anyone involved in such activities on its own. Another precedent was set in case of Gen Zia-ud-Din. The success of Zarb-e-Azb, continuation of Karachi operation and frequent visits of Chief of Army Staff to the front lines clearly indicate not only the strength of Gen Raheel Sharif but also the admiration he enjoys in the ranks and files, as well as amongst the civilian strata.

Thirdly, not only by words but also by actions the military hierarchy has made clear that they are not interested in any kind of coup. Military on external front is actively guarding against the hostile eastern and western neighbours. Within the boundary of State the military is engaged in conducting various operations on the call of the government. This includes Zarb-e-Azb, operation in Karachi, and various intelligence based operations across Pakistan. With the nation at the back of the army, people are widely appreciating military’s accomplishments as well as its leadership. This has helped bring in national cohesion and unity against the common enemy and common challenges to country’s security and solidarity.

Fourthly, if we see from the international politics lens, then the situation in Pakistan is different from the prevalent environment in Syria and Afghanistan. Although foreign actors are present in both the states, yet their interests vary. Syria a bordering state of Turkey has become a tussle ground for regional and global powers. Apparently Turkey is the US ally as well as a NATO member country, but it has a democratic government where President Erdogan has his own interests too. The United States would like to have either a puppet or “one man show” government in Turkey which would follow the US diktats without questioning.
There has been an internal political rivalry in Turkey between secularists and Islamists. Erdogan was all set to introduce Islamic reforms in the state which are not favoured by the followers of secular thoughts of Kamal Atta Turk. Seculars are said to have a good strength in various institutions and military is one of such state organ. So, internal and external conditions of Turkey are completely different from those of Pakistan. Afghanistan which is a bordering state of Pakistan also has presence of US and NATO but here conditions are different. Additionally the government and military leadership of Pakistan is on one page regarding the state ideology.

All these factors indicate that there are other lessons in the failed attempt of coup in Turkey. We can’t compare the circumstances, trends and civil military relations in both countries. Creation of National Security Council in Pakistan is another milestone in the political history of country. It is an important confidence building measure which will lead to a stable Pakistan. Military is an important institution of state and so is the political government. Leadership of both important institutions sits together and takes decisions on important national and internal matters, which is an indication of a stable future for the country.
(Maryam is the DDS scholar at FJWU, Rawalpindi)

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