Lessons from Pakistan for Erdogan’s Turkey

Turkey and Pakistan have much in common, except for its decade-long economic boom and political stability. Of late, Ankara’s distinction over Islamabad seems at serious risk. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s smooth sailing ship has hit some formidable icebergs. The 60-year-old seasoned captain refuses to mend his course

Not long ago, General Pervez Musharraf - the last of Pakistan’s dictators – too could not see it coming. Laden with limitless praise and drunken in fantasy of being the most powerful, he acted with belligerence. He summoned the then chief justice of Pakistan to advise him to either take his or the highway. The man stood his ground to shock the dictator. Musharraf fired the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. After lull of two days, Pakistan changed forever! And so did the fate of a mad ruler. The year was 2007.

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry took the course a jurist should have. He moved the court against his removal, terming it unconstitutional and illegal. He walked on foot alone from his abode to the Supreme Court building. Police and sleuths manhandled the most senior adjudicator in broad day light and watchful eye of satellite TV cameras.

Pakistan’s spring was born that day! The oppressed political activists and muted middle class quit its slumber. The 180-million strong nation was bitterly divided between those who wanted a stable, authoritarian but prosperous country and the ones seeking an open, democratic and sustainable homeland. Justice Chaudhry’s battle for rule of law lasted till March 22, 2009 but once powerful Musharraf has become a political casualty under public pressure, much to the dismay of his American and European backers.

The general had left the country in the hands of Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto. From the country’s steel mills to the national airline was put on sale. The opposition was timid and compromised. Now third-time premier Nawaz Sharif then did not dare enter the parliament and his party simply acted as friendly opposition. Islamabad was a stage for the game of musical chairs. All apparent challengers to the plunder were sharing the same pie yet again.

Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the restored Chief Justice of Pakistan, decided to return the favor to the people of Pakistan and do his due for the homeland. He voluntarily took up the case concerning privatization of mammoth steel mills, eventually annulling the government decision. He never stopped questioning the otherwise unquestionable intelligence agency, ISI, over enforced disappearances. In the absence of judicial oversight and vocal civil society, the sleuths had been getting away with any sort of excesses. In unequivocal terms, the chief justice said no more!

Since the constitution of Pakistan separates the judiciary from the executive, the honorable judges of Supreme Court exercised full authority in annulling decision of General Pervez Musharraf while probing multi-billion dollar graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The Benazir’s widower armed with political legitimacy and the powers Musharraf had accumulated in the presidency had no option but to defend the charges on legal grounds. When all tactics failed, the president of Pakistan hid behind immunity, something commonly referred to in Turkey these days.

Yousaf Raza Gillani, the then premier, was summoned to the court and eventually punished. The ministry of Law and Justice had little control over the situation while the premier was being disqualified for contempt of the court. Today, over half of Zardari’s cabinet faces corruption cases, many of whom were probed voluntarily (suo moto) by the judges of superior judiciary.

From a rape case to an illegal appointment or dismissal of a police constable in remote districts of Sindh, everyone filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court. The illegal orders were reversed and top officials trembled with fear in front of people’s judiciary.

From 2005 till today, the superior judiciary has been Pakistan’s first line of defence against corrupt elite and anti-state mafias. Most Turks or Arabs may not know of this heroic struggle by the people of Pakistan against a dictator and independence exercised by its judges.

Share this page

Facebook Twitter Delicious Buzz Digg StumbleUpon
Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (6 votes)

Post new comment