An article published in The New York Times and Geo’s Meray Mutabiq (Part I and Part II), hosted by Maria Memon & Sohail Warrich, got my attention today. Both looked at what is going on in Turkey, the fifth largest Muslim country by population – but the largest by per capita income. I started thinking of the lessons that we could take to produce new possibilities for Pakistan’s growth.
The New York Times piece tells us that the Turkish government has announced that it will return properties confiscated from religious minorities by the state, and will pay compensation for those properties that were seized from 1936 onwards and then were later sold. Turkey’s current government is not strictly secular but in fact is an Islam-inspired. The Prime Minister, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is the leader of Justice and Development Party, known as explained a few months ago, Turkey is an excellent example of reaching a benchmark for Pakistan because of various similarities that include adapting to an amalgamation of ethnicities, religions and cultures. Turkey can be a great role model for how to develop a successful democracy without giving up religion and culture.
From an economic perspective, it would seem that what Mr. Warraich talks in depth about goes hand in hand with what Irene Khan talks about in her article for Daily Star: Turkey’s significant transformation over the past decade.
Turkey’s economy is booming. A member of the G20 group of developed and emerging economies, last year its GDP grew by 9%. The Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) predicts Turkey will have the fastest-growing economy in the OECD until 2017. Unemployment has fallen from 14.4% in 2009 to 11.5% this year, and social development programmes are beginning to tackle poverty in some of the more remote and troubled areas.
Under nine years of AKP rule Turkey has changed radically, shedding its military past in favour of liberal democracy and combining strong economic growth and social development with Islamic conservatism and an assertive foreign policy.
From a social stand point, it seems that Turkey has found an excellent balance between Islam, nationalism and democracy. Religious and secular parties within have found common grounds and, as explained by Mr. Warraich, Pakistan’s political and religious parties too had come to a similar ground in 1973 and had the martial law not been put in place in 1977, we too could have a strong democracy today.
Europeans countries have started to take Turkey as a serious contender for economic trade within the region since Turkey has opened up its market economy to outside. Several investor friendly policies have also recently been made there. Mr. Warraich also explains that till the last decade or so there was high inflation (up to 70%) but the emerging middle class produced professionals in various fields, and once there was a balance between nationalism, religion and democracy, it opened the doors for these professionals to govern matters. Though it took some time, once these professionals came up, the country prospered.
Every nation has conflicts and disagreements within its people. Turkey too has conflicts but they are slowly getting better as the political leaders look for balanced solutions to disagreements. There are many similarities between Turkey and Pakistan. With more than one third of the population under 30 years of age, Pakistan has an emerging middle class and a love for education as well. By taking a path based in balance and consensus, we too can provide our young Pakistani professionals a chance to shine. And then, Pakistan too shall prosper.