Interior Ministry to Turkish Teachers: Get Out of Our Country!

Turkish teachers expelled from PakistanThe decision to expel desperate Afghan refugees may have been a humanitarian disaster, but the Interior Ministry’s latest decision raises serious questions about how low the government will go to please foreign leaders. Ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit, officials have informed Turkish teachers that they have three days only to get out of Pakistan.

After a failed coup attempt, Turkey’s authoritarian leader has undertaken a Stalin-esque purge of society that has shocked the conscience of the world.

More than 100,000 people had already been sacked or suspended and 37,000 arrested since the abortive putsch in an unprecedented crackdown President Tayyip Erdogan says is crucial for wiping out the network of Gulen from the state apparatus.

Thousands more academics, teachers, health workers, prison guards and forensics experts were among the latest to be removed from their posts through two new executive decrees published on the Official Gazette late on Saturday.

Now, we have become willing participants in this shameful episode of history. There is no evidence that these humble teachers have any connection to plotters and coup makers.

Some have noted that countries go to war and do much worse things for allies, so why are we so surprised at this? However I think the decision must also be thought about in the terms of current world events. Who will we be willing to turn over to Donald Trump? One what grounds will we protest if a Marine Le Pen government in France begins a purge of Muslims?

Our leaders shout that they will not take dictation from foreign governments, but their promises are hollow. First we got rid of the refugees, now we are willing to get rid of teachers. Who will be next? You?

Coup Lessons

Islamabad coup billboardsIn Islamabad, pro-coup billboards are showing up just as the Army chief’s retirement date draws near. No one is surprised, and while the boys are not taking credit, neither are they eager to take any action against the campaign. Retired officers are even expressing their desire for Gen Raheel to continue beyond his term, just as they have supported the same for every Army chief before him. Media has twisted the words of US officials including US Senator John Mccain to try to make it sound like America also wants an extension for Gen Raheel, and the usual suspects on social media have been chomping at the bit for “Go Nawaz Go” slogans.

However it was Turkey, not Pakistan, that has suffered a coup attempt, and the response has been amusing to watch. There are those who are clearly disappointed that Turkey’s coup did not succeed, and worry that this might send the wrong message to our own leaders.

Next there are the civilian leaders celebrating Turkish citizens fearlessly standing up to their military to preserve their democracy.

It has to be a dream for them that their own people would do something similar, but it is also a lesson for all of us that no matter how powerful, every Army depends on the support of its people and losing that renders it virtually powerless.

This brings us to the powers that be, who have remained bizarrely silent so far. And the boot polishers who are just bizarre.

Case Studies in Dignity & Self Respect: Turkey vs. Iran

Obama listening to Turkish PM Erdogan

Yesterday I wrote about Dignity, Integrity & Self Respect and how to get there. I argued that these qualities can’t be gained by intransigence, deception and denial, but must be earned through honesty, sincerity and responsibility. Today I want to follow up with some examples from modern geo-politics that demonstrate my point.

Earlier this month, Turkey announced that it will partner with the US to host part of NATO’s missile defence system.

Under the Nato plans, a limited system of US anti-missile interceptors and radars already planned for Europe – to include interceptors in Romania and Poland as well as the radar in Turkey – would be linked to expanded European-owned missile defences. That would create a broad system that protected every Nato country against medium-range missile attack.

This makes sense for Turkey since it will help protect the nation’s security. But it doesn’t mean that Turkey is an American stooge or a servant of Western hegemony. Far from it. At the same time that Turkey was cooperating with the Americans to secure its borders, they also expelled the Israeli ambassador when he refused to apologise for the Gaza flotilla raid that killed Turkish citizens and spoke out loudly in favour of Palestinian rights. If one were to listen to our ghairatmand conspiracy walas, this would be a seeming impossibility. How can a country be partners with the Americans and not fall prey to their US-Hindu-Zionist mind control? Because Turkey is reasonable and realistic, it is respected when it disagrees with the US and taken seriously on the world stage.

Compare this to Iran that rigs elections, spreads ridiculous conspiracy theories, and acts as a destabilisers in the region. When Turkey speaks out about a serious issue like the rights of Palestinians or economic markets, the world listens. When Iran rants and terms the holocaust “myth”, the world laughs at them. And when they speak out for the rights of Palestinians, nobody listens. This week’s UN meeting is a case in point.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, much diminished at home by his confrontation with the country’s supreme leader, has said the same thing so many times at the United Nations that it has taken on the aura of a ritual monotony. When a Western ambassador was asked what he anticipated from Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech, he quipped, “We are preparing our usual contingency walkout plan.”

Right on schedule, Mr. Ahmadinejad prompted a walkout by the United States and Europe by implying that conspiracies lay behind the Sept. 11 attacks and the Holocaust.

This is the question we need to ask ourselves. Do we want to be indignant or effective? Being indignant is easy. All you have to do is pound your fist and point your finger and don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. You can feel self-righteous and superiour, but you will never succeed in changing anything.

The other choice is to be effective. That requires being realistic and being responsible. It requires taking a long view of history, recognising our limitations, and working towards achievable solutions even if they come only incrementally. When a country follows the Turkish path, it has the ear of world leaders. And when you have the respect of the world, self respect comes naturally.

Giving Pakistani professionals a chance to shine

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.

And

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.

Escaping from the crushing domination of US imperialism

Pieces of the global puzzleI was a bit stunned when I read a few days ago an American scholar suggesting that if Pakistan and US government cut links, “a cooling-off period could even lead to renewed ties”. Has PTI opened an office in Washington, DC? Thankfully, the answer to that question is no. Then I noticed that the writer is from the same think tank that recently hosted Gen sahib’s historical amnesia speech. Unfortunately, the case may be that this is writer is listening to the various ‘analysts’ who peddle this belief that isolating Pakistan is the path to progress.

International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign wrote in Daily Times over the weekend that “In an epoch where there is a world economy and a world market, the chances of escaping from the crushing domination of US imperialism are bleak”.

Things don’t have to be so bleak.

While it is true that the US is the world’s largest power in terms of economy, it is not an isolated and self-contained. American politicians are presently dead locked on how to manage the country’s $14 trillion national debt. A record number of Americans want US troops pulled out of Afghanistan. No matter how much money certain people are making from telling that the hidden hand of US hegemony is knocking on the door, the facts say that the US has its own problems and is not interested in taking on responsibility for a new colony of 180 million Pakistani Muslims.

But what about those countries that are already making agreements and cultivating relationships with the US? Aren’t they being pounded under Washington’s iron fist? Hardly so.

The obvious example to mention is China which is seen by many as a rising global power that could even replace the US on the top of the rankings someday. China and the US are closely intertwined and work together on mutual interests approaching disagreements through dialogue and compromise. Both countries see the future as one of close relations between the two nations. Yet even these two play spy games with one another, and no one would dare say that China is bowing under US pressure.

Turkey, which I wrote about last week, is also integrated into the world community without suffering any ‘crushing domination of US imperialism’. Actually, the US has openly welcomed Turkey as a rising leader. And in case you think that Turkey has paid for this honour by becoming a puppet of some US-Zionist hegemony, please to recall that Turkey is taking a hard stance on Israel

Even Cuba which has been a symbol of resistance to Western capitalist hegemony is looking at ‘upgrading’ the national system. This is because after decades of isolation, the revolutionaries there are realising that they can bring their country into the new era without leaving their principles behind.

Changing for the better doesn’t imply betraying principles. By maintaining distances and differences within the core of the revolution, we have also changed – some more than others. Certainly, we will only be able to achieve reconciliation through all of the camps changing more. But it will always be important to define the direction of the change.

The feeling of love for Cuba, for the Cuba that Marti dreamt (free, democratic, with distributed ownership) could be the key to success of the dialogue.

Change ‘Pakistan’ for ‘Cuba’ and ‘Jinnah’ for ‘Marti’ and the same holds true does it not? Being true to nationalist principles does not mean refusing to change. There is only one thing that does not change, and that is death. Life changes and adapts, and so must nations.

Sadiq Saleem wrote that all this anti-Americanism misses the point that realism and pragmatism have always moved Pakistan ahead, while ignoring these principles has set us back every timeMunir Attaullah who is a successful businessman sees a bright future for Pakistan, but only if we “re-integrate with the international community rather than thumb our noses at it”.

China, Turkey, and many other nations are fully engaged and integrated into the world community and doing rather well for themselves without suffering ‘the crushing domination of US imperialism’. There’s no reason Pakistan can’t do the same.