Erdogan is to Turkey what Ziaul Haq is to Pakistan

Published: July 26, 2016

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. PHOTO: REUTERS

When Recep Tayyip Erdogan recited the following verses whilst serving as the Mayor of Istanbul back in 1999;

“The mosques are our barracks,
The domes our helmets,
The minarets our bayonets,
And the faithful our soldiers…”

Turkish citizens should have known better than to vote him in as prime minister for 11 consecutive years, and eventually, the president of Turkey.

Known to the world of politics since decades, Erdogan isn’t a stranger to how the political clock ticks. He created the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, which raised him to unprecedented heights. To date, his status within the party remains undefeated, with no internal rival whatsoever, and no opposition party strong enough to take on a political giant like Erdogan.

Known as a hero in the municipal history of Istanbul, he was quick to emulate his past feats. He glorified democracy, made an earnest effort to prevent corruption (later to be involved in a corruption case himself), lowered state debt, increased trade and developed infrastructure. Political pundits termed this period of progression the ‘Silent Revolution’.

A membership in the revered NATO and his effort to get European Union members to grant Turkish citizens visa free travel within the Schengen zone further strengthened his role as a political maestro.

One can see why Erdogan gained unparalleled popularity amongst his people. He was rooting for all the right things.

But just as nearly every man sows the seeds of his own downfall, Erdogan, too, began setting the stage for his eventual downfall.

Seen as a threat to Kemal Ataturk’s secular policies by many in the judiciary, Erdogan, a ‘patient Islamist,’ enjoys a solid 12% support of hard-core Islamists and conservative voters. He is known to promote the Islamisation of education and social behaviour, and is stated to have said he wants to witness “the growth of a religious generation”. One of his party members even went to the extent of stating AKP may be foregoing secularism in order to implement a religious constitution.

This was met with extreme backlash, for obvious reasons. Promoting Islamisation in a region surrounded by an ISIS stronghold isn’t the greatest of policies. An attack on a music store in Istanbul in June 2016 by extremists may have very well been the outcome of Erdogan’s ever-growing stance on the Islamisation of the Turkish state. What was more alarming, though, was how protestors rallying against this attack were dispersed with tear gas and water cannons and a law prohibiting protests was implemented thereafter.

Echoes of his Islamisation policies were also witnessed in the outcome of the recent failed coup. Supporters of Erdogan gathered at Taksim square, chanting ‘Allah o Akbar’, verses were read from the Holy Quran, appeals from imams at mosques were made in order to garner support for Erdogan and appeals of execution for the coup plotters reverberated throughout the square. These scenes were an eerie re-embodiment of Sultan Suleiman’s reign, where treason was punishable through execution.

An Islamist state may very well also serve as a breeding ground for ISIS soldiers and attacks, as witnessed in the recent Istanbul Ataturk Airport – though that doesn’t seem to trouble Erdogan much. His foremost concern is towards the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

Kurds in Turkey have undergone a cultural genocide, been brutally repressed by successive governments and were made to forcibly integrate into the state as a minority. Erdogan is known to use the war against Kurds to selfishly further his presidential agenda, but he is also aware of the fact that PKK is backed by strongholds in Iraq (Rojava) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. Therefore, Erdogan cannot afford to escalate the war against them or even fathom pushing the war beyond his borders.

What he’s more anxious about is the Independent Syrian Kurdistan party helping Turkish Kurds in plotting a revolutionary war within his dominion. Seeing how this matter is progressing, the only panacea to his fear regarding PKK is to sign a peace agreement and call for a ceasefire.

This option would have seemed plausible to many, but to Erdogan, it seems to translate into a sign of weakness.

In his rise to absolute power, evident through his wish to draft a new constitution granting him executive powers, he has managed to root out any sign of opposition, as seen with the PKK, followed by the army and the censorship of media and journalism.

In 2012, with the help of Fethullah Gulen, a former ally and a present arch nemesis, he conducted a witch hunt which witnessed the removal of army officers, falsely accused of plotting a coup against the government. It is rumoured Gulen may have set up his loyalists in place of the sacked officers, and these very same loyalists may have been the same men who planned the recent coup.

Erdogan’s panic and apprehension towards the army may have been the outcome of Turkey’s turbulent history with coups, in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997.

Meanwhile, Erdogan, slowly, yet steadily, marched on towards supremacy.

In the past year, he came down hard on news organisations, taking over one of Turkey’s main newspaper, Zaman, imprisoned journalists and banned Twitter and YouTube. Freedom, a vital foundation of democracy, began shrinking and Erodgan’s authoritarian power kept growing.

The recent coup will only feed Erdogan’s fears and suspicions and will further fortify his resolve to crush any parallel state wishing and waiting to evolve. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, Erdogan is waiting to pounce on any sign of rebellion, just as he is currently doing.

Throwing a childlike tantrum, Erdogan has blamed Gulen and Gulen loyalists for the failed coup, declared a state of emergency, demanded the American government to extradite Gulen and shut all institutions linked to Gulen. He ordered the arrests of thousands of judges and officers. The arrests are in vast numbers, so much so, prisons have run out of space and lower ranking officers have been imprisoned in schools and gymnasiums. It seems the failed coup has given Erdogan a blank cheque to dismiss basic human and democratic rights, something which most countries are outraged about – especially members of NATO.

Turkey had the right amount of secularism and was on its path to liberal development; a country which could very well serve as a role model for most Islamic countries, but Erdogan is adamant on destroying Turkey’s progressive image. What he needs is a reality check – the thousands of supporters who came out on the streets in an effort to avert the coup – were ardent supporters of democracy, not Erdogan.

Erodgan is on a rampage, a colossal beast no one dares stop.

It is only a matter of time before Erdogan tumbles off his throne, just like our very own despot, Ziaul Haq. Maybe he could take a page out of our history books and not repeat the same mistake. But ominous clouds are hovering above him and we can only wait and watch how another mighty man will crumble in his quest for absolute authority.

Mushal Zaman

Mushal Zaman

The author is a sub-editor at Tribune. She tweets as @MushalZ90 (

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

  • Intellectual.pseudo

    You Mushal Zaman are to muslim world what Marcus Brutus was to Julius Caesar.Recommend

  • Nauman

    @Mushal Zaman “One does not simply write a whole article on the basis of …is know to do this , is known to do that.” Some facts would have been nice!Recommend

  • Ahmed

    its disconcerting to see how the young kids are quick to dismiss Islamic rhetoric as absurd, barbaric and impractical.Recommend

  • Sheraz Khalid

    Finally someone with Truth! Kudoos to you lady!Recommend

  • Asad Ullah Randhawa

    There is a hell lot of difference on Zia ul Haq and Erdogan he was a dictator and Erdogan is Elected president to whom the masses love…
    Miss Mushal actually your problem is Islam and you have nothing to do with Democracy or Marshall law Recommend

  • AbuBakr Cheema

    An article can be gravely misinformed, virulently biased or starkly incompetent. Congratulations Ms. Mushal, you’ve managed all 3.Recommend

  • AbuBakr Cheema

    Nothing balanced about this article, sir. Your comment, however is much more so.Recommend

  • NZ

    The writer’s reason for Turkey’s eventual downfall under Edrogan is Islamisation similar to Pakistan’s in Zia’s regime. A very trigger happy insinuation this without delving in depth into the whole paraphernalia of events, push and pull factors and history.
    Please don’t make this a new narrative with Edrogan the same way we have made with Zia in recent years; attributing anything and everything wrong with Pakistan to the Zia regime and his Islamic overtones. History doesn’t start from Bhutto’s hanging; there was a lot of wrong happening before that and lot of wrong happened after the C130 crash. We have simply chosen to ignore all that and appropriate all the blame on one Boogeyman. There have been lots of them and we are again building a dangerous narrative by ignoring the others…Recommend

  • Ayesha Khan

    Very immature blog… Based on assumptions and comparing a right with wrong and present with past.Recommend

  • Syed

    You can easily get job in Fox news.Recommend

  • wb

    Do you understand how ridiculously irrational you’re? Do you understand Secularism? Secularism is not an ideology like a religion. Secularism is separating state from religion.Recommend

  • Syed Abubakar

    Dear Miss Mushal..I disagree with you,like many other commentators. Erdogan is elected by people of Turkey and if he is implementing Islamic policies then it means he is representing the will of people. If people have been voting him for last 11 years and trust him and go to streets on his ONE SINGLE CALL then what does it mean?It is democracy na? The same problem you had in Egypt. When an elected govt. tries to implement Islamic policies you have bitter words for them but if Ata Turk forcefully secularism and bans Namaz, Azan you have no problem..DOUBLE STANDARSRecommend

  • Ravian

    You may hate Erdogan and you may hate Zia, but there is no comparison. Zia was a US stooge, whose drama of islamization was to create war fodder for US’s revenge war against USSR in Afghanistan. Erdogan is a popular leader, elected to power by people (despite the west’s disapproval). He has earned what he has while Zia was a usurper.Recommend

  • Babar Ahmed

    Great Going MushalRecommend

  • khan

    ok, comparison of Zia n Erdogan is not the best match, however i totally agree wit u that he is turnin out to be a sweet n silent dictator, which others who have left there comments are completely ignorin it…

    Erdogan has taken a very route since 2013, his greed of power, his vicious tactics r all visible, but i guess masses of muslim world r not able to see it…

    this is not democracy for crying out loud!!!

    and anyone who thinks this article is wrong, think again, observe, and remember, we have our politicians doing the same thing, maybe not this extreme coz they fear our military…

    ur article may not be precise, but i understand what ur stating…Recommend

  • Razi Mallick

    I find no relevance of comparing the two personalities. One was a military dictator whereas the other is a democratically elected president. Erdogan popularity has increased over the last thirteen years from 35 percent in 2003 to 52 percent in the last election. Turkey economy has flourished and poverty level declined drastically. As per World Bank April 2016 update, per capita income of Turkey has nearly tripled to $10,500 in less than a decade, and extreme poverty level declined from 13 to 4.5 percent in the same period. Turkey as a country has gained a status at the world stage.
    People from all shades of the political and ideological spectrum supported him against the military insurgency. Yes, they came out to the streets to save democracy, because despite of ideological differences people’s belief has increased on democracy during his governance. They are tasting fruits of democracy.
    I am trying to figure out what was the motive of writing this article. No evidence has been provided to prove the claim. I could not find any commonality except one that both claimed to be Islamist and Erdogan not toeing secular stance of Kamal Ataturk. I do not think that this should be the valid reason to dress the two in the same type of clothes.Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    I take it as compliment to the Late Gen Zia ul haq. Islam will be islam. Edrogan is an Islamist and those around him are also Islamist. Just too bad some do not think and act as Allah SWT has directed us to do.Recommend

  • rizi

    16 TV channels, 45 papers and 15 magazines, 1,700 members of the armed forces, 21,000 staff working in private schools, more than 15,000 employees at the education ministry, 9,000 police, 2,745 judges sacked and you still have got guts to call it democracy…Recommend

  • rizi

    For your knowledge, the coup leaders could have asked to kill anyone resisting the coup, but they did not. They stopped when they saw civilians.
    They were not out of ammunition when they let go of their arms.
    They are much more civil than our own armed forces, which killed thousands of civilians in Bangladesh when they were attempting to get the country free.Recommend

  • rizi

    What kind of an elected president sacks thousands of judges?
    Ok, let me tell you, the one who fears that his actions will be challenged by the sane judges…Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    You are a Maulana by mindset with a taste for “Being cool”, just another Pakistani.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Even this was a western conspiracy?Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    That’s the problem, she is in such a minority.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Good luck with your caliphate.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Sir, I agree Islam is Islam, what did Zia achieve though?Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    Ten years of Bliss.Recommend

  • Stealthy

    Erdogan is certainly not the “right” one. He is to be blamed for all this mess in syria.Recommend

  • Agha

    Good joke.Recommend

  • Fahim

    Buy eye glasses and read again “Secularism is not an ideology like a religion.” Recommend