DAWN - Editorial; June 3, 2005

June 03, 2005

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Relations with Turkey

FRIENDSHIP between the peoples of Turkey and South Asia goes back into history. The Khilafat movement, the medical mission to Turkey during World War I and the financial support to Turkey’s war of independence are part of history. But, regrettably, the sentiments of love and friendship between the two peoples do not seem to find expression in concrete terms. The volume of trade between Pakistan and Turkey is low — less than half a billion dollars — and Turkish investment in this country is negligible. Similarly, all the talk of cultural relationship notwithstanding, there is very little to show by way of achievement. As for the economic relationship, Turkish businessmen have often complained that their visits to Pakistan produce no results. The bureaucracy moves slowly, and they have to cross many barriers before an agreement is signed. Turkish companies involved in motorway construction have bitter memories of having been dragged to courts mainly because of Pakistan’s internal politics. In sharp contrast, they point out that on a single day’s visit to Frankfurt they can sign transactions worth millions of dollars. Pakistan will thus have to rectify this aspect of our decision-making apparatus if the aims spelled out on Wednesday by Prime Minister’s Shaukat Aziz and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are to be realized.

Among areas where the two countries want to increase cooperation is defence production. Addressing a joint press conference with Mr Aziz, Mr Erdogan spoke of “the many steps” the two sides will take in defence cooperation but did not elaborate. Agency reports, however, spoke of possible cooperation in the joint production of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and patrol boats. Pakistan, like Turkey, has to maintain a huge defence establishment, but its arsenal is mostly American and Chinese. Of late, it has made considerable efforts to diversify its sources of arms purchases, and there has also been a commendable effort towards the indigenous production of vital defence equipment. In cooperation with China, Pakistan is producing a fighter-bomber which will shortly go into serial production, while the navy has acquired modern submarine technology from France. Pakistan is already producing al-Khalid and al- Jarrar tanks and is exporting them. Turkey too has reached a certain level of technological proficiency and among other items manufactures F-16s at Ankara’s Akinci facility. Against this background, cooperation with Turkey for the production of tanks, APCs and patrol boats should help promote self-reliance in both countries in defence production.

In another area where Pakistan can learn from Turkey is the peaceful nature of its political environment. Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), now in absolute majority in the majlis, has given Turkey peace, stability and economic growth that is fastest in Europe. Its exports total $60 billion, and it plans to take it to $94 billion. The AKP has an Islamic orientation, but it has shun extremism and shown an extraordinary example of tolerance towards religious and political dissent. More important, under Mr Erdogan, the military’s role in politics has virtually ended. Generals no more dominate the National Security Council, which has been stripped of its dominating role and is now only an advisory body. Turkey has also given, perhaps under European pressure, full cultural rights to the Kurdish minority, abolished the death penalty and undertaken many other political and legal reforms. Like Malaysia, Turkey is an example for Pakistan to follow for managing its internal affairs sensibly, without providing a handle for divisiveness to obstruct national progress through extremism and violence.

Attack on funeral prayers

WEDNESDAY’S suicide attack on a mosque in Kandahar during the funeral prayers of a slain religious leader which killed 20 people proved to be one of the deadliest since the fall of the Taliban. Mourners had gathered at the mosque to pay respects to Abdul Fayaz, head of the Islamic Scholars’ Council, who had been gunned down on Sunday, and was widely recognized for his support of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Prior to his murder Mr Fayaz had convened a council of 500 clerics which stripped Mullah Omar of the title of “leader of the faithful” and declared it unlawful for people to follow his orders to kill. While the Taliban have taken responsibility for his death, they have denied their involvement in the attack. That someone could kill a man so brutally and then disrupt his funeral prayers in a mosque in an act of suicide bombing is galling. There has been a rise in violence in Afghanistan in the past few weeks with an increase in insurgent activities including bomb attacks in cities and on aid organizations and its workers — all of which highlight the country’s descent into anarchy and disorder.

Mr Karzai has a tough job ahead of him if he is to control violence and lawlessness, particularly in view of the nationwide election scheduled for September. He desperately needs to establish the writ of the government beyond Kabul, for which he will have to increase security forces outside the main cities. The Taliban may not be gaining in strength but they, and al Qaeda, remain active and pose a danger to the country’s already weakened stability. The US military is slowly releasing prisoners from its detention centres so as to reduce tension in areas where insurgent activity is rife. This may not have any significant pacifying effect on elements hostile to both the Americans and the Kabul government.

Brutal police handling

IMAGES of the police and Rangers brutally handling civilians in Karachi’s strike-ridden suburbs on Wednesday were flashed across the world on TV screens, and shamed the nation. The footage showed the Rangers beating up unarmed youth, forcibly entering people’s homes by knocking down their front doors with kicks and the rifle. Thursday’s national newspapers, too, carried pictures showing law enforcement personnel posing with their ‘catch’. A Rangers man in military boots stood on the legs and buttocks of a youth, surrounded by several other young people who were blindfolded, handcuffed and forced to lie flat on the ground with faces down. The camera caught other gun-wielding officers looking unashamedly proud of their accomplishment. This was not Iraq or Palestine under occupation, but a street in Malir.

No one can condone hooliganism, stone throwing or burning of petrol stations and vehicles by protesters, as seen in Karachi on Monday and Tuesday; but excessive highhandedness with which the law enforcement personnel brutalized unarmed civilians on Wednesday must also be viewed with a sense of shame. Such a gung-ho style of law enforcement can only strengthen elements harbouring ulterior motives, or those wishing to extract political mileage out of anti-establishment feelings fostered by the growing number of educated, unemployed youth. As it is, many in our urban sprawl are condemned to live without basic amenities, social services or security of life and property. They cannot be blamed for venting their anger at a situation that leaves them with little hope or dignity. The Sindh government must rethink its handling of the law and order situation obtaining in the province, especially when local elections are just round the corner.