Categorized | South Asian Politics

CAN PAKISTAN LEARN FROM THE FAILED COUP IN TURKEY?

Posted on 27 July 2016 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

 The politically active circles in Pakistan expressed much satisfaction on the failure of the military coup attempt in Turkey. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Group (PMLN) took the lead in celebrating the failed July 15 coup in Turkey.

 While extending full support to the Turkish government, the PMLN leaders described the collapse of the coup as the triumph of democracy and a clear assertion of the power of the people who came out in the streets on the appeal of the President to challenge the rebellious troops.

 Pakistan’s print and electronic media carried supportive articles and comments for the Turkish government. The Senate, upper house of the parliament, passed a resolution that endorsed Turkish democracy and appreciated the courage of the Turkish people to stand up to the military for protecting the elected civilian government.

 Not many people in Pakistan paid attention to the history and dynamics of civil-military relations in Turkey, making it different from Pakistan in several respects. Similarly, none talked about the challenges to Turkish democracy despite the failure of the coup and how President Erdogan was using the emergency powers in the aftermath of the coup to cleanse the military and civilian institutions and lower judiciary of his political adversaries and pack these institutions with his loyalists. The current tensions in the civil-military relations in Turkey are expected to persist and these might cause new upheaval in politics when some of its top commanders are put on trial.

 The Pakistani enthusiasm for the beleaguered Turkish civilian government can be better understood in the context of the uncertain civil-military relations in Pakistan. The PMLN and its allies have played up the Turkish episode in order to deter Pakistan’s military leadership from expanding its role in the political domain. By emphasizing the popular resistance in the streets to the military, the ruling PMLN is hoping that the threat of popular resistance would ensure civilian continuity in Pakistan.

 The response of the people of Turkey to the appeal for help by the President was an important contributory factor but this was not the key element in the civilian triumph. The initiator of the rebellious coups violated the basic principles of military take-over.

 First, if a coup is not spearheaded by the top command of a professional military, it is likely to collapse. In this case the rebellious elements have to fight on two fronts: their colleagues that refuse to join them and the political leadership that needs to be dislodged. This divides the military and dissipates their energy for swift action.

 Second, it is important for the military staging a coup to establish quick control over the key government offices, disarm its security system and take-over the official communication system. A divided military will always find it difficult to establish a stable control of state institutions and networks.

 Third, the top leadership to be dislodged needs to be quickly isolated from their loyalists and supporters so that they do not mobilize them. The key leaders of the target regime are either arrested or detained in their residences in a manner that they are isolated from the outside world.

 The rebellious Turkish military failed on all three counts. The military as a whole was not united and they were unable to control key government installations in Ankara and Istanbul. They did not know that the President was not in Ankara that night. By the time they came to know of his location, he was able to issue an appeal to the people and moved to Istanbul which was his main support base. He had served as the Mayor of Istanbul.

 As the people realized that the President and the Prime Minister were free to function, the public responded positively to the appeal. It took almost three hours from the first information about the beginning of the coup that public took to streets in a large number. Had the rebellious military succeeded in following the first three standard operating procedures, the appeal to the people could not be made which actually caused the failure of the already faltering coup.

 The widespread popular response to the President’s appeal in Turkey can be attributed to the government’s successful economic and societal development policies since the A.K. Party came to power in 2002. The Turkish government was able to improve the delivery of basic services to the common people which created a widely shared perception at the common person level that their quality of life had improved under this government.

 The Turkish public reciprocated the good work done by Erdogan as Prime Minister (2003-2014) by responding positively to his appeal. In the case of Pakistan, it is difficult to suggest if the civilian federal and provincial governments have adequately addressed the socio-economic problems of the common people and improved the quality of life of the ordinary people.

 The current political order has entrenched itself in Pakistan by tolerating corruption and has relied on partisan use of state patronage to build support. Therefore, the direct beneficiaries of the state patronage and those who have made money for one reason or another under the current civilian order are expected to support such a corrupt and lopsided system in the Punjab. However, the probability is extremely low that there would be a spontaneous display of popular support in the major cities if the current civilian order is threatened by non-democratic pressures.

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