Turkey do, Pakistan follow?

The US pledged “absolute support for Turkey’s democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions” and immediately ended the attempted coup in Turkey. This attitude of Washington must have come as a nasty surprise to the coup planners — the leaders are not yet identified, because that country under Tayyip Erdogan’s first prime ministership and then presidency has become more receptive towards Islamization, a movement seeking a return of the Turkish society to the faith. This was, as always, counter-balanced, if not resisted, by the Turkish Army the upholder of the modern secular state and Constitution that Kemal Attaturk established in the ruins of the Ottoman rule in the wake of the First World War.

But Attaturk’s secular revolution was from the beginning opposed by the Muslim clergy and the old order where the mosque had great say. Visiting Istanbul, one could clearly see, feel, and sense that deep divide. The bridge across the Bosphorus, linking “European” Istanbul and Turkey (wide avenues, glittering shops, clean lines of buildings in big compounds) to a manifestly “Asiatic” Turkey (a crowded, rising jumble of settlements) is the very symbol of the uneasy but persistent internal tensions. No wonder the units involved in the coup positioned their armoured vehicles on this bridge to prevent the more Islamist people from streaming into the European quarter. In any case, one spotted Islamists in black turbans and kaftans even in the “Western” sections of the city, sporting a sullen attitude, plainly disapproving of the westernized Turkish society they abhorred.

Why does what happen in Ankara and Istanbul matter for developments in Islamabad and Pakistan? Pakistan army chiefs, especially the more adventurous among them who launched coups (Pervez Musharraf, for one, who spent his early years in Turkey as his Dad was posted in the Ankara embassy) have always seen themselves as Pakistani Attaturks, rescuing their country from poor civilian governance, corruption and squalor of a country set too soon and prematurely on the democratic path. Their self-image is that of state modernizers. (Th exception being Zia “the mullah” ul-Haq, who dragged the country back several hundred years with his nizam-e-mustafa.) Whatever his other faults, Musharraf, for example, did something quite unique — actually facilitated a free and lively press and media to proliferate, grow and flourish until now when Pakistan, in my view, has a far freer, more vocal, media, more critical of its government than in India. Just youtube Pakistani news and panel discussion programmes for evidence. Or scan the online versions of Pakistani newspapers featuring, perhaps, the most vociferous bunch of columnists in South Asia (such as the extraordinarily literate Ayaz Amir writing in ‘The News’).

The problem is the relentless 24/7 criticism of the Muslim League (N) government has prepared the ground for possible army takeover by the current Pak COAS, General Raheel Sharif ere his term ends in four months time (November). The apparently no-nonsense Raheel is the new Saladin on the Pak scene — the man who can do no wrong, who deployed his forces to all but wipe out the Pakistani Taliban in FATA and North Wazirstan, cleanse to a considerable extent the Karachi metro region of its tribal crime syndicates, and cut the MQM supremo Altaf Hussain and his Movement to size. And, he is liked by the Pentagon as a “straight shooter”. The situation has all the ingredients for a Raheel coup.

But here’s the difference with Turkey. There Erdogan over the years had weeded out “undesirable” — read too secular — generals from the command structure, leaving the coup to be attempted by mid-level officers that guaranteed its failure. In Pakistan, it is the “secular” army that could reassert its role as the guardian of the state. Fed up with a non-performing govt and a Nawaz Sharif who avoids hard decisions and whose family is allegedly into self-aggrandizement, people have put up posters on lamp posts lining Islamabad avenues pleading for Raheel to rescue the country.

Here’s where the unpredictability is. The Obama Admin’s nyet pretty much let the air out of the coup in Ankara. After all, Erdogan has played ball with the US in its military ventures against the Bashar al-Assad clique in Syria, and is deemed useful. Washington may well disapprove should 111 (“Coup”) Brigade gets its orders from GHQ, Rawalpindi, to take over Radio Pakistan and Pakistan TV studios — the usual events that mark the onset of a coup in Islamabad. However, Raheel (like his predecessors, Ayub Khan, Zia, and Musharraf) is unlikely to be as deterred because he knows the US govt will come round to accepting the imposition of martial law as Afghanistan and other geostrategic concerns will undercut any American interest in strengthening Pakistani democracy.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, corruption, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, Iran and West Asia, Pakistan, Pakistan military, SAARC, society, South Asia, United States, US., West Asia, Western militaries. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Turkey do, Pakistan follow?

  1. andy says:

    That Nawaz Sharif is on shaky ground is pretty obvious by the Pakistani governments reaction in the aftermath of Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Burhan Wanis death at the hands of Indian security forces in Kashmir. The way in which they are seeking to internationalise a terrorists death and it’s regrettable aftermath ,evidenced by spiralling violence in the Kashmir valley that has claimed 40 lives thus far,raising the bogey of Indian strong arm tactics in Kashmir while ignoring their own state sponsored genocide in Balochistan using fighter jets and helicopter gunships against their own people, is proof of their own internal insecurities and wide spread public anger which the Nawaz Sharief govt faces domestically.

    Mired in allegations of corruption and the Sharief family’s penchant for self glorification ,Pakistani govt finds itself between the devil and the deep blue sea.On one hand are the irate people and on the other is an all powerful Army chief.

    So what can be done in such a situation? In order to deflect attention from their own myriad internal problems, whipping up anti India sentiment by raking up the Kashmir (non)issue is the fall back option that numerous Pakistan rulers have excercised in the past and is being done at the present time.But all this is probably not going to help the Pak govt survive for very long, as is amply evident General Raheel Sharief is not going to walk away into the sunset.His term expires in 4 months, the coup d’etat has to happen in this timespan.

    As for the US take on this probable course of the Pak Army chief,well there would probably be a lot of drumbeating at Congressional hearings but ultimately they would(as usual) toe the line.So the more things change, more they remain the same.

  2. a m malik says:

    you are acting like a wee willy winkie. The difference between kashmir and Baluchistan is that Kashmir is in illegal occupation by the Indians. and have denied the right of plebiscite as per the UN resolutions on the contrary Baluchistan is an integral and legal part of Pakistan. If it was illegally occupied by the British then it may be illegal and if it was legal under the British so it is under Pakistan. Whilst the Soviet Union was fuelling insurgency since 1977. But one odd person by the name of Brahhmindag Bugti has for long been sponsored by India as have been others. The establishment of various consulates in Afghanistan around Baluchistan has been for the very reasons to create a turmoil. Cdr Bhushan Yadev- a serving officer caught in Baluchistan is a living example of your trying to perpetuate insurgency in Baluchistan.
    Now speaking of Turkey – the conditions in Pakistan and Turkey are quite different.
    Your analysis of Turkey coup not succeeding is borne out of prejudice. The fact is that Erdogan has proved himself as a very successful head wants Army to look at the greater good of his people of the state whilst Nawaz Shareef has proved that he is everything but “shareef”. And in Pakistan it would be exactly the opposite. Whilst the army has no appetite for taking over public wants Army to look at the greater good of his people..

    • andy says:

      @a m Malik
      Just like to draw your attention to the following article to put at rest this tom tomming of the UN resolution by pro Pakistani elements every time there’s some trouble in the valley.


      As for Kulbhushan Jadhav being a spy, well that’s been effectively refuted by the Iranians and he’s not a serving officer. But then no point in arguing with brainwashed people who claim that the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament was orchestrated by the Indians themselves. Makes one wonder wether the propaganda machinery in Pakistan was trained by Goebbels,who said ‘if you repeat a lie a thousand times it becomes thè truth’.

      • andy says:

        “Mir Ahmad Yar Khan(Khan of Kalat) provided generous funding to the Muslim League, both at the local and All-India levels, and acquired the services of Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the Legal Adviser to the Kalat state. With Jinnah’s advocacy, it was agreed on 4 August 1947 that the ‘Kalat State will be independent on 5 August 1947, enjoying the same status as it originally held in 1838, having friendly relations with its neighbours’. On the same day, an agreement was also signed with Dominion of Pakistan. According to the Article I, ‘The Government of Pakistan agrees that Kalat is an independent State, being quite different in status from other States of India’.

        The Khan of Kalat achieved a pyrrhic victory by becoming ‘independent’ on 15 August 1947.

        Balochistan was divided between four princely states under the British Raj. Three of these, Makran, Las Bela and Kharan joined with Pakistan in 1947 after independence.The Khan of Kalat,Ahmad Yar Khan, declared Kalat’s(biggest of the four territories) independence as this was one of the options given to all of the 535 princely states by British Prime Minister Clement Attlee.

        Muhammad Ali Jinnah pressured Yar Khan to accept Pakistani rule but the Khan stalled for time. Out of patience, on 27 March 1948, Pakistan formally annexed Kalat.In April, the military invaded, conquering the territory in a month.Yar Khan signed a treaty of accession, submitting to the federal government. His younger brothers, Princes Agha Abdul Karim Baloch and Muhammad Rahim, refused to lay down arms, leading the Dosht-e Jhalawan in unconventional attacks on the army until 1950. Jinnah and his successors allowed Yar Khan to retain his title until the province’s dissolution in 1955.”

        As the above read shows ,the Khanate of Kalat was an independent country and was recognised as such by Pakistan ,but within a year of its independence it was invaded and annexed into Pakistan in 1948.

        In 1947 the Pakistanis tried the same stunt by invading Jammu and Kashmir in the guise of tribal militia, on being repulsed by Indian forces(invited to J and K by the Maharaja) they turned their attention to Khanate of Kalat.The invasion of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani irregulars forced Maharaja Hari Singh to seek Indian intervention and sign the treaty of accession with India.

        As is amply evident from this narrative ,Balochistan is an occupied country and the Khan was coerced into signing the treaty under duress of military invasion.So where is the parallel between Balochistan and Kashmir? only in brainwashed minds.

      • andy says:

        The Treaty of Accession is itself redundant in Balochistans case since it was never a princely state,it was an independent nation ,in fact the fourth Kurdish nation state established in 1410, the first was Mesopotamia. It was never a part of greater India or any other nation since it was independent. All the lands of Balochistan under the British were leased out to them on contract,British Balochistan and British India were two separate entities. So to use the British rule of Balochistan as an excuse for Pakistani occupation of that country is perfidy of the highest order.

    • andy says:

      @ a m Malik
      For good measure read the following interview of a female Baloch activist ,to know the lies Pakistan has perpetrated about the legality of its occupation of Balochistan.Especially telling is her comment about the Kashmir problem and it’s dissimilarity with Balochistan.


  3. SANKET says:

    The Turkish army is a secular force in that country. The current government under erodgan is Islamist and very pro Pakistan, if seen from Indian perspective. If this is the case MR karnad, then won’t it have been better for India if the coup d’etat had succeed as this would have brought a secular army to power which could have taken a more balanced approach to India – Pakistan relations than the current Pakistan friendly erodgan government?

    • &^%$#@! says:

      Erdogan has virtually decimated the secular Kemalist officer cadre that could successfully launch a coup, and reverse his Islamist agenda. India needs to deal with realities, and pay Erdogan with the same coin. Start giving the Kurds publicity and official recognition of sorts. For example, highlighting Ottoman and Erdogan’s atrocities against the Kurds and the Armenians could be a good place to start. In addition, a Kurdish liaison office could be invited to open shop in New Delhi.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        In addition to the current situation, or as a partial response to any increased Turkish belligerence, Turkish Airlines should be disallowed from operating to/from India. The Indian routes are some of this airlines most profitable ones. If matters still escalate, then arm the Kurdish freedom fighters (and the Baluchi ones too) with the weapons they covet but are denied – MANPADS.

  4. &^%$#@! says:

    Mr. Karnad, the continuing reports of gradual IS (or ISIS) activities/penetrations in/into India are growing at an alarming rate. It is no great secret that Turkey has been one of the main supporters and patrons of the ISIS. Is there anything Turkey can do or be compelled to do to curtail ISIS activities in India, or has this terrorist organization crossed the threshold of being controlled? As you are surely aware, there is just too much hard evidence for Turkey to seek plausible deniability in its role in fostering the ISIS. Further, what in your opinion would be the effect of ISIS penetration into Pakistan, and what would be the chemistry between them and the terrorist organizations already operating in Pakistan? Finally, would the ISIS enjoy the support of the Pakistani Army/ISI as do most other terrorist organizations operating there?

  5. sanman says:

    I think that Pakistan’s Army are the opposite of Kemalists – the Pak military are Islamic nationalists who want to keep Pakistan in the grip of Islam. They see Islam as the ultimate ideological guarantor of Pakistan’s territorial integrity. When all the ethnic groups pose a threat of secession and territorial breakup, then Islamic glue is seen as the best way to hold the country together.

    Now that Erdogan has belled the cat and is finally managing to assert absolutely power over the country, he will make himself into the Muslim Putin. Some are suspecting that Erdogan may have secretly been behind this coup, because he’s the one who’s profited the most from it. It’s rather strange that Erdogan’s forces have so quickly produced a large list of people to arrest in the aftermath of this coup – not just army officers, but also a large number of judges and others not directly affiliated with the military, who are seen as not being in Erdogan’s camp. This may potentially be a modern replay of the Reichstag Fire.

    While Pakistan has suffered strains in its ties with Saudi Arabia, the timely shift by Turkey towards increasing Islamism may prove to be a fortunate windfall for the increasingly isolated Pakistan. I wonder if Pakistan even might help Erdogan do a Kissinger and broker some Chinese support for Turkey, which is otherwise sandwiched between some very large powers like Russia and Europe. Turkey has traditionally been dependent upon good ties with the US to help it manage external threats, but with relations set to get rocky thanks to Erdogan’s accusations of US involvement in the coup, perhaps Turkey may look to China as a balancer. In return, China could gain significant influence in the Middle East, where Turkey is a strategic pivotal state.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      The problem with Turko-Chinese relations is Erdogan’s overt support for the Uighur’s (who are a Turkic people). In fact Turko-Chinese relations are worsening by the day. IMHO, Turko-US relations will continue as before because they have common strategic interests – the ISIS, Syria, Iraq, Russia, and the long dreamed of gas/oil pipeline from the Gulf to Europe. This recent spat is just a “flash in the frying pan”.

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