By: Raja Taimur Hassan
Islamabad: Heavy corruption charges, abuse of power, difficult political situation, ban on majority media outlets, growing conflict on hosting more than 2 million Syrian refugees and deteriorating law and order situation as a result of terrorist attacks by Islamic State (IS); this was the situation of Turkish government led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AK) party, before the night of 15 July 2016 failed military coup attempt. It was most likely that the military coup could have successful, if people won’t come out on streets against their own military and defended their democracy.
Again on 7th August 2016, more than a million people have attended a pro-democracy rally in Istanbul in response to Turkey’s failed coup attempt, which shows their resolve for protecting the democracy.
I would not go into details of reasons behind the abortive military coup and won’t explore the disputed ruling style of Erdogan. But a question was striking to my mind since then, why Turkish people took to the streets in middle of night on a single call of their elected president to defend their democracy?
Irrespective of differences on his ruling style and serious blames by his opponents, the fact is that Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the most popular, influential and charismatic leader in Turkey. The question is that how Erdogan get there, regardless of his disputes personality?
Since 1960s, Turkey has witness four military coups, long term political instability, grave economic downturn, rising poverty, and violent clashes between left and right wing groups, which claim thousands of lives.
For over two decades in power, as mayor of Istanbul in 1994, as Turkey’s prime minister from 2003 and since August 2014 as president, Erdogan proves his worth through his governance. During his two decades of public service delivery and substantial economic policies, Turkey has become a regional economic powerhouse, poverty has been overcome significantly, the share of the middle class has doubled, an improve public infrastructure put the country on 6th most popular tourist destination in the world, and an increasingly important global hub for energy, trade and transport. According to The Economist, the gap between Turkey and fellow members of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), a club of mostly rich countries, has shrunk markedly.
These are the major contributing factors for growing popularity of Erdogan. Turkish people have never witness such a robust economic transformation before. People of Turkey were fully aware of fruits of sustain democracy. Perhaps, it was the first time that Turkish people started reaping the benefits of democracy. I think, owing to visible progress on ground, this time Turkish people refuses to accept another attempt of sabotaging democracy and hence, they took to streets on fateful night, which claim 265 lives and thousands injured, and defeated the rebel forces to defend their democracy.
After abortive military coup in Turkey, a debate has been instigated in Pakistan and every one start questioning that what if there is similar coup attempt, then will people of Pakistan defend their democracy? To me the answer is ‘Don’t Know’. Because the situation is blur and it would be unfair to predict any possible future scenario.
One of Pakistan’s major main stream political party leader went to the extent and said that “people of Pakistan will distribute sweats on imposition of martial law”. A political leader should refrain from giving any such remarks, which weaken the democracy and strengthen the anti-democratic elements.
Given the state of governance in Turkey, as narrated above, the situation comparatively in Pakistan is not that much satisfactory. There is serious tension between PML (N) led incumbent government and opposition parties on heavy corruption charges (due to Panama leaks scandal) and public service delivery is also not promising. There is rise in disparities, where 38.8 percent Pakistanis are still living in multidimensional poverty (which includes health, education and living standards), unemployment is on rise, more than 24 million children are still out of schools, load shedding issue has yet to be resolved, and except China, the relations with neighbors are getting worse.
These facts show the dismal performance of the government on all fronts. In this situation the people start disliking the politicians and the system. People become impatient, start protests and demand to change the system. And we have witness four times in the history of Pakistan, that whenever there is demand for change in the system, there comes the Khaki.
However, despite the shortcomings in governance, Nawaz government has few success stories too; there is an improved law and order situation in the country with the help of security agencies, terrorism is largely being curbed with successful operation of Zarb-e-Azb, economic indicators painting the positive picture of the economy (largely due to CPEC portfolio), owing to increase in trust of investors Pakistan Stock Exchange declared as Asia’s best market and the world is acknowledging Pakistan’s economic stability and progress.
Based on above facts, I am not going to predict any possible future scenario; instead will leave the question i.e. ‘Will people of Pakistan defend their democracy?’ open as a food for thought.
Yet, I would say that the challenge for the incumbent government and political parties is to gain the trust of the people and wining their hearts, only than people will defend, protect and preserve their democracy and there will be no unconstitutional threat. Failing in gaining trust of people may lead to disastrous consequences.
Now question arises in one’s mind that how to achieve trust of people and wining their hearts? For that the incumbent government should overcome their shortcomings in governance on war footing, especially in health and education sector, which should be seen as well.
We the Pakistani should also show patience, as we want to see the change with a blink of eye, which will not happen ever. I believe that the change will come gradually and only come through sustain democratic process. I hope that after two and three peaceful political dispensations, without any interruption, the people will start reaping the benefits of democracy.
Let give the democracy its due time and things will turn around with the passage of time. The only things we need to do is ‘Patience’. So Keep calm and say Yes to Democracy.
The writer is Public Policy and Political Analyst and work with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), a public interest think tank based in Islamabad. He tweets at @taimur__.
Note: The article first appear at Express Tribune .