Imran Khan’s Admiration of Turkey’s Erdogan Could Worsen Pakistan’s Economic Plight

Pakistan’s leaders have long expressed admiration for Turkey’s leaders and this, especially over the last few decades led the country down a dangerous path. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s fascination with Erdogan and Turkey is a recipe for disaster.

Recep Erdogan, president of Turkey, claims his faith in Islam prevents him from raising bank interest rates. This position has hurt the Turkish lira where in the past three months it has lost half its value. Erdogan refuses to budge: “As a Muslim, I will continue doing what our religion tells us. This is the command.”

As Pervez Hoodbhoy points out in his latest column, “surely as one who aspires to be a Muslim hero you have read the Quran. Therein stands the clear injunction: “Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest/usury” (2:275). “Forbidden” here does not mean negotiating what is low or middle or high — forbidden means zero, exactly zero. Haram is haram. This is why all early Muslim scholars rejected interest.”

As Hoodbhoy notes, “in Erdogan’s Turkey, state and religion have been joined together; ideology has trumped pragmatism. Still, puzzles remain: how come an interest rate of six per cent is somehow un-Islamic but a 4pc rate is okay? What about 5pc? Erdogan is untroubled by such questions because he is an Ertugrul-like figure in his own imagination, convinced of his absolute wisdom. He recently lashed out at Turkish businessmen who are unimpressed by his faith-driven economic policies. After chairing a cabinet meeting on the falling lira, he accused them of “scheming to topple the government” and said their hopes would be in vain.”

According to Hoodbhoy, “Pakistan’s misfortune is to have the soul brother of Erdogan in power today. Forget the falling rupee — it will surely make some small recoveries soon and, for a while, everyone will be satisfied again. Much more serious is that our schools are producing hordes of ignorant, bigoted, hyper-religious Sialkot-type lynchers who are totally skill-deficient. This will get far worse when the ideologically motivated Single National Curriculum (SNC), the brainchild of PM Imran Khan — becomes fully operational.”

As Hoodbhoy points out, “On a global level, Pakistani children presently stand at the bottom of achievement levels. Inferior to their counterparts in Iran, India and Bangladesh, they are almost always absent from competitions like the international science and mathematics Olympiads. When they do compete, they perform poorly. The solitary exception is invariably an O-A level or IB student linked to a foreign examination system.”

Finally, Hoodbhoy notes, “Buoyed up by Pakistan’s victory in Afghanistan, on many occasions PM Khan — who greatly admires Erdogan — has gleefully lauded the Taliban as a liberating force. He has lauded the Pakistani madrassahs that produced the Taliban and showered funds upon them. Now he wants our regular schools to emulate Taliban-style education — hence SNC. By official notification dated Dec 21, co-education in Punjab’s schools will be phased out. In fulfilling PM Khan’s ideological fantasies, Pakistan will pay a terrible price.”

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