Does Pakistan need a Turkish leader to succeed?

Published: April 3, 2012

It is remarkable what a leader, committed to serving the nation he believes in, can do to a country’s fate. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a case in point. PHOTO: REUTERS

It is remarkable what a leader, committed to serving the nation he believes in, can do to a country’s fate. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a case in point.

When he came to the helm of affairs in 2003, Turkey was at the periphery of economic development in Europe. A continuous stand-off between its civilian leadership and the military did not help matters either.

After coming into power that year, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK) made Turkey a real success story in the economic realm, providing an excellent example of how institution-building and well thought-out public policies can translate into tangible change in people’s lives.

The country not only witnessed a record 26 quarters of persistent economic growth with average GDP surpassing 7.3 per cent but also experienced low inflation. As employment opportunities grew, so did living standards for all Turks.

Economic prosperity had a multiplier effect not only in the economic sphere but also the political one. Backed by popular support, Erdogan managed to rein in the country’s powerful military, a trenchant critic of its civilian administrations. The generals could no longer stage coups and dismiss people’s representatives at will because the public appetite for that had all but disappeared.

The question that keeps nagging me is that can Turkey’s experiences be replicated in Pakistan? Judging the way things are at present, one has reservations.

There are two reasons for this. First, Pakistan’s leaders do not have a viable economic plan, what to talk of long-term policy formulation when leaders cannot even address basic energy needs of the country. At the same time, facets of urban development as basic as the procurement of potable water remain absent for a majority of the country’s population, while those below the poverty line continue to register an exponential increase.

Second, our leaders do not have the capacity or the charisma to engage in reforming society. Erdogan had Islamist roots but he did not let that impinge upon his role as leader of a nation. Hailing from a middle-class background, he combined facets of the welfare state with his Islamist leanings while attracting votes in the countryside.

I doubt whether Pakistan’s leaders can rise above their petty differences, ideological positions and vested interests to rise for the country they profess to be serving.


Read more by Taimur here.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mustafa Moiz

    I am a great admirer of Turkey and I believe Tayyip Erdogan has done wonders in Turkey. I believe Quaid-e-Azam would have been similar had he lived long enough. However, I have two criticisms of Erdogan. One is his foreign policy, which I won’t elaborate on because I think its irrelevant here. The other is his handling of the military. I believe Erdogan has gone too far in attempting to curb the military in Turkey, and is now actively targeting them. He crossed the line when he had the former General Basbug arrested in connection to the Ergenekon plot. There is no way Basbug, recently retired, could have been involved. And he was brought in by Erdogan, who had suceeded in ousting the previous military general. Either Erdogan’s party has to reign him in, or he has to resign at the end of his term. And the problem is, I am not sure how much popularity the AKP would have without Erdogan. That said, I believe the Turkish leadership is the best and most admirable in the world today, and in almost every aspect, if Imran Khan was similar to Erdogan, it would be best for Pakistan.Recommend

  • muhammad faraz khalid

    Yes,we need a leader like Ataturk.He transformed Turkey for the better.kamal ataturk was a visionary.He saw the damage letting religion and state policies mix could do and so he set the foundations of a secular turkey and Turkey prospered.We need a strong, genuinely secular leadership like Ataturk’s.Recommend

  • humayun khan

    Mustafa Kemal ataturk set Turkey on the right path.Erdogan and his regime are destroying all the good work that ataturk did.Erdogan misled turkey’s people by saying he didn’t have a religious agenda but since siezing power,he has worked surreptiously to promote the intrusion of religion into Turkish society.
    Pretty soon,Turkey is going to be like us,with all the jamaats and lashkars.Ataturk’s legacy is being deliberately dismantled by the present regime.Recommend

  • bilal majeed

    Religious fanatcism and intolerance are growing in today’s Turkey.Erdogan is busy in the talibanisation of Turkish society.His govt. is slowly and quietly undoing the laws,regulations and policies upon which secular Turkey is built.The whole dynamic of Turkish society is being irrevocably altered.Separation of religion and state is under severe threat under Erdogan’s govt.Recommend

  • Talha

    Well, Turkey is a secular state where success can be achieved while Pakistan is a hardline Sunni state with a liking for militants and regressive religious policies.

    See the difference.Recommend

  • THE

    Nice blog Taimur, I agree with you 100% but I think Pakistan already has such a leader in Imran Khan. The problem is that the people need to rise above their own interests, work for the nation.Recommend

  • Ali

    We don’t need a Turkish leader. We have Imran Khan \m/Recommend

  • Zaid Hamid

    No… As we are descendents of Arabs, we need Arab leader!Recommend

  • Stewie Griffin

    Pakistan should be just like Turkey.

    A secular state.Recommend

  • A S

    Success came to the Arabs when they became Muslims. By becoming Muslims they abandoned all the bad habits and embraced and practiced all the heartwarming and heart winning habits. With their heart winning habits came together and established the best and ideal system known in the history of mankind. It was understandably a system of the people, by the people for the people. People who showed in their practice what they claimed by words. They practised what they claimed i.e. “There is no Ruler except Lord Almighty”. They created the authority of Lord Almighty through their ways that was “Envy of democracy”.
    Later on they abondoned their revolutionary practices and thus went into decline.
    So any nation that wants to be progressive and successful all they have to do is to follow in the footseps of those Arabs and create “Envy of democracy”. Consequently create the authority of no man but that of Lord Almighty.
    This is the only way to succeed.Recommend

  • Faith

    Imran is a BIG admirer of Erdogan. He would love to follow his model.

    Our Kaptaan = Turkey’s Erdogan = Malaysia’s MahatirRecommend

  • BlackJack

    It is easy to confuse correlation with causation. The only comparable parameter with Turkey is the religion of the majority – and not even the way it is practiced. The AKP has reaped the benefits of economic growth over the last decade, but the main advantage that they had is inheriting a progressive, forward looking society that could attract investment and deliver growth. This is a result of the secularism and egalitarian values embedded through Ataturk – truly a visionary leader. Erdogan is systematically dismantling the old Turkey, with potentially cataclysmic results. But on to Pakistan – even if Imran Khan comes to power, all that will happen is that the overjoyed masses will be disillusioned within a year, and probably be inviting the military for yet another go. This is because the problems that Pakistan faces are not easy ones to address – violent insurgencies at the borders, increasing sympathy for hardline Islam among the people, increasing victimization complex, fertile imaginations, petro-dollar inflow, low foreign investment, creaking infrastructure (power generations, water management), low literacy rate, galloping inflation, over-population, budget skew towards military and rampant corruption (I probably missed a few, and yes, there are interdependencies in the above). Recommend

  • geeko

    Yes, actually I’d say that Mahatir’s case is more relevant in our situation.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    Erdogan sahab has islamist roots that help him not to steal and loot like we have done by both parties civilions feodals & Holy Army who making us fools since 1947 why we are so concerned about kashmir is not 200 millions muslims lives in india.
    and one more thing this is the word islamist roots used by west when they saw Turkey is on
    right track and by the way if u are muslim them u are islamist too if not then who u gonna follow to be come muslim???Recommend

  • narayana murthy

    A typical Pakistani mentality.

    Try blaming all your ills on everything else and in the end blame your leaders.

    Problems of Pakistan are due to the people of Pakistan (people who have commented here). Don’t blame military or politicians.

    If your military and politicians are horrible, it’s because you people are horrible.Recommend

  • Yegane

    The comments are more interesting than the blog itself due to the fact that people of Pakistan actually realises that the reason Turkey is a “role model” is because of Mustafa Kemal’ revolutions.

    And sadly despite the economic growth you probably don’t really want a leader like Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Regards from Istanbul Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Since you seem to imply that our problems are so complex that they are not fixable, may I also request you for a rope that we can use to hang ourselves? Come on man…I know we will survive because we are willing to fight through the end…Zindagi zinda dili ka naam hai…murda dil kya khaak jiya karte hain!Recommend

  • BlackJack

    I am sorry dude, that was not what I was implying; merely that stability is not a rabbit that Imran Khan can pull out of a hat – what Turkey has today is the result of immeasurable foresight by Ataturk. Your country is going to the dogs, because no one is willing to bell the cat. (How’s that for 3 animals in 2 sentences :). But seriously, I (and most of India) want a stable, liberal and prosperous Pakistan (the alternative is unthinkable), and I hope that you are able to address the issues mentioned above in the near future (the interdependencies also mean that one solution can address multiple problems). All the best!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Cases in point apart from Turkey.
    Singapore before and after Lee Kuan Eu.
    Malaysia before and after Mahatir Mohammad.
    China before and after Deng Xiaoping
    I have been privilaged to go to all four of the above countries before these leaders took charge and seeing them today only confirms that all it takes is one honest, hard working, fearless man/woman willing to lead.Recommend

  • saleem islam

    A few key words –
    i) he comes from a MIDDLE CLASS background
    ii) ‘reign in the the powerful military’

    iii) ‘The generals could no longer stage coups and dismiss people’s representatives at will because the public appetite for that had all but disappeared.’

    i) We also need to have political leaders coming from such backgrounds;
    just having the same old recycled trash isn’t going to change anything is it …?
    ii) OK; now how about ALSO reigning in the powerful Wadera Shahi class;
    it’s not just the military, military, military that’s the ‘bad guys’ … whenever there’s a blame game to be played, the MILITARY is accused.
    iii) Yeah that’s exactly it: there IS no public appetite for changing the system.Recommend

  • Umer Khan

    Brother, mark my words, if God gave Imran Khan at least 5 more years, we all will forget Erdogans, Mahathir’s, Mandela’s and even Muhammad Ali Jinnah, God willing. Recommend

  • Deniz

    My pakistani brothers and sisters we as Turks will always stand with you together in bad times aswell in good times. Pakistan needs to invest more in education, infrastracture and energy supply. These are three basic pillars for development. Together with stability, trade and innovation Pakistan can and should become a economic powerhouse in the world.

    These are the things that Erdogan has brought Turkey, not like past politicians that wasted time with ideological issues. Recommend

  • Anoop

    Problems are in the DNA of Pakistan. No leader can resolve it.

    Pakistan is a state born on a flawed idea, given birth by even more flawed individuals. This Hero Worship will get you no where.

    First fix the structural and ideological issues, then you can start thinking about other things.

    Turkey, for instance, knows what it is: A secular state, on the model of Europe. Pakistan is diametrically opposite and is tied to Islam, Turkey is not.

    Leaders of Turkey did a very smart thing in unhinging Turkey from Islam from its very start. Can Pakistan do that? Too much ideological and psychological baggage for that to change.Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Thanks for the clarification. All we need is determination, planning, and dedicated people; and God willing we will make it happen. Recommend

  • gp65

    @Falcon: “All we need is determination, planning, and dedicated people; and God willing we will make it happen.”

    Good luck. You need all the things you listed but in addition you need to also certain other things
    – give up a rentier state foreign policy and adopt an independent foreign policy
    – give up theocracy and adapt secularism (secularism does NOT mean atheism or la-deeniyat. IT just means that state will not distinguish between its citizens based on their religion)
    – get clarity on the form of government the country should have. Right now some people want democracy, others are hankering for army rule and some want a caliphate.
    – invest in law and order
    – prioritize education, healthcare of Pakistanis instead of only focusing on the army and hate India policy
    – rein in the ‘non-state actors

    These seems might seem unrelated but directly impact investor confidence in an economy and Pakistan DOES need billions of dollars worth of investment.

    Good luck. I hope Pakistan is able to succeed in doing all the things I listed above.Recommend

  • Ahmed Ilyas Cheema

    New Turkish Delight : More Islamic, More Democratic, More Modern …..
    AKP’s Turkey is becoming a role model for whole Muslim World including Pakistan
    Erdogan is my role model. he is reislamizing his state so wisely. Recommend

  • Ahmed Ilyas Cheema

    hoping that Imran Khan is going to be Mahatir and Erdogan of Pakistan.
    his vision of Modern Islamic Welfare democracy is much like AKP;s vision. Recommend

  • sars

    @narayana murthy:
    we may or not be horrible but thats a terrible comment. Whats your excuse, then?Recommend

  • Optimist

    @ narayana murthy

    Indians are becoming over confident!!!Recommend

  • theeha

    no, pakistan needs an alien leader like zaid hamidRecommend

  • Silent Observer

    Our leaders have taken safe refuge in their bunkers and have not shown any concern about its citizens. It is time that we demand from them a voice of action or they should be dispatched to their respective homes where they can face the reality of daily life being confronted by the people of Pakistan. The so called “leaders” are busy jockeying for political positioning and shown no leadership that they were elected to provide.

    There is no governance, no accountability and not even semblance of leadership. This mayhem would have brought about a political change in any civilized democratic society. Perhaps it is time for the people to raise their voices against this deafening silence and demand action. I think we as a nation need to get together and realize that this is something we need to do ourselves. We need to be brave, we need to do whatever we can, write, voice our opinions, concerns and make ourselves heard.Recommend

  • hariharmani

    I’m going to take a very different approach today,I will not rehash what Many say what Pakistan must do,I have done that several times.It just makes feel good and helps rocks off ,at the end of the day,nothing ever changes anything.Let us see.What is the problem with nations which have remained in the rut and other who have surmounted their problems to some degree.China,Turkey,South Korea ,Malaysia,and Singapore,after the second world war.What are the countries which are in rut.Egypt,Syria,Libya,Sudan,Morraco,Algeria, Iraq Afganistan ,countries of Africa and lastly Pakistan.Iran and India,Brazil are in different category.What is common there?Lack of education,from that springs fauled up reliance on God and religion,when people are in rut,Faith is what sustains people,it makes life bearable as religion and God is like a balm acts like a drug,makes you feel better but does not cure your sickness and does not make you healthy.So what to do?It is my theory,it takes little time to bear fruits if a nation follows well thought policy,and it also conversely does irrrevokable damage when nations follow bad policy,in this case,coming out of problems are very difficult,if not impossible.Then there is something known as Critical mass,or point of no return.Ex. population explosion,radicalism,lawlessness,corruption bad governance,political chicanary.When these thing set in,it is a mixture which is very potent and the entire generation and a century is lost.It is very difficult to turn around,bad things happened to India and china and also brazil,untill 1980,but then complete over haul was done in China and Brazil,but India because of political lack of will,and other problem(corruption bad economic system,to name a few),partial reforms were enacted so partial results,in China Mr Deng went for radical surgery,so radical improvement.I won’t venture to tell ,as I’m not that smart or arrogant ,to suggest what is the medicine for Pakistan,but Imran is not the answer,it is band aid,not real treatment for the problem which ails this land.There are lot of smart people in Pakistan,that has never been the problem,the remedy is like chmo traphy in cancer,sometime cure is worse than the decease.Go figure,it is no win situation.It beats me.If it was one thing I could say,but with several problem where to start?which one to tackle first.?It is not easy.Good day.Recommend

  • Faizan

    Offcourse… A sincere leadership can make Pakistan up..I think Imran Khan have the power..Recommend

  • Yildirim

    Pakistani friends do not be deceived by Ergodan. Ergodan will send us to the dark ages. The great achievements of Turkey are due to man – Kemal Ataturk. He is the league of Perter the Great or Napoleon. The reforms is brought to Turkey ar without precedent. No leaders since in the Muslim world has the courage to do what he do. Name one country. Recommend

  • Haris

    @humayun khan:
    That’s absolutely ridiculous what you have just mentioned. Better look at the performance of (Erdogan’s) Justice and Development Party and there Economic success and achievement. In Pakistan if someone wants an inspiration then he should look up to Justice and Development PartyRecommend

  • Haris

    Pakistani’s need to vote for the right and honest people and parties but its sad to see that still after watching the last 4years performance of the Government (PPP, PML-N & Q, MQM, ANP and JUI-F) which is an absolute failure in all aspects, people still go and attend there precessions and jalsa’s. who are these people who participate in the processions of mqm? who are those people who attend ppp and pml-n jalsa’s? People of Pakistan do not want change for themselves thats what I can extract from this. Last but not the least, illetracy is also a major reason for the current circumstances in which Pakistan has stuck.Recommend