Turkish Coup Attempt And Pakistan
Nations take time to achieve stability. The developed countries have taken centuries to reach where they are at the present moment. They are economically sound, political role models and socially progressive. Military coups are attempted in the developing countries where economic, political and social institutions are weak. Turkey is no exception to that. Frequent martial laws in Turkey have weakened the country. Last July, a faction of the military attempted to take over but the Turkish nation stood up against the plotters and the coup attempt failed. This failed military coup provided oxygen to the struggling democracy in Pakistan.
A group of rebel Turkish army officers attempted a failed coup d’état (blow of state). That cabal of army initially blocked the Fateh Sultan and the Bosphorus bridges. These are two important bridges which connect the Asian and the European part of Turkey. It was considered to be a security measure after the attack on the French city, Nice. Soon after the blocking of these bridges, they captured the building of the Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) and blocked access to social media. These rebel army officers forced the newscaster to read a written statement which read:
“Martial law has been imposed because the Erdogan government had been abusing human rights, drifting towards dictatorship and eroded Kemalist-secularism.”
Moreover, the statement read:
“Fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution would be respected and foreign relations would be conducted with the international community.”
As soon as this news broke out, everyone was shocked at this unexpected development. In the beginning, neither Erdogan nor any of his Cabinet members were available who could deny the statements or update the media. So, at the start it was assumed that the coup might have succeeded. President Erdogan was in Marwaris, a resort in Istanbul. Even then Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar was detained. He was forced to sign “martial law declaration” papers but he refused to do so. The rebel soldiers came to the streets of Ankara while carrying heavy ammunition. Helicopters and fighter jets flew over the capital city.
In the midst of chaos, Erdogan emerged. He held a press conference through his cellphone and talked to the private media. He appealed to the nation “to come out to the streets and save democracy”.
In response to his appeal, people started coming out of their homes. The people chanted pro-democracy slogans and sang the national anthem. Within no time, the streets of Ankara and the Taksim Square flooded with people who wanted to save democracy.
These people came in the way of coup-makers. The nation of Turkey confronted them and freed the government installation, state television building, Ankara airport, etc. Even international media covered the youth who came in front of the tanks and compelled the soldiers to surrender. The Turkish police also played an important role along with the nation. The people stopped the rebels while the police arrested them. By doing this, the coup attempt was successfully suppressed. In fact, it was a joint effort by the incumbent government and the Turkish nation.
Ever since the abolition of Ottoman Empire by Mustafa Kamal Atta Turk, the military has attempted several coups. Few of them succeeded while the others failed like that in July, 2016. It is the last failed attempted coup.
The situation in our country regarding martial laws is no different. The first martial law was imposed by President Iskander Mirza on October 7, 1958. Iskander Mirza appointed General Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. However, General Ayub deposed Iskander Mirza on October 27, 1958, just after twenty days. That was the beginning of coup d’état in Pakistan.
For half of the time our country was ruled by military dictators. They created bundles of problems for the country just to achieve their vested interests and sustain their rule. Ayub Khan’s rule paved way for successive dictators to grab power by force and hold it till the dictator wished or until he was forced to retreat. Ayub Khan ruled for 11 years from 1958 to 1969.
Ayub Khan handed over power to General Yahya Khan. During his rule, the country suffered the loss of its eastern wing which became Bangladesh. He ruled till the fall of East Pakistan in 1971. After Yahya Khan, Zulfikar Bhutto took over. This was the first time an elected government ruled the country. His government remained in power until 1977. NAP (National Awami Party) held protests throughout the country over the allegations of electoral rigging. When the negotiations failed between NAP and the government, the situation became worse throughout the country. According to Hamid Khan’s book Political and Constitutional Development in Pakistan:
“In the end, Bhutto agreed to dissolve the national as well as the provincial assemblies and to hold elections.”
General Zia did not hesitate to follow the footsteps of his predecessors and imposed martial law. His draconian rule continued from 1977 to 1988 until his death in an air crash on August 17, 1988. After his death, democracy returned to the country, though political instability persisted. One government changed after the other. Except Z.A. Bhutto’s first tenure, no popularly elected government completed its tenure. In 1999, General Musharaf, the last dictator of our country, overthrew the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had two-third majority in Parliament at that time. Therefore, our country’s checkered history went through ups and downs like that of Turkey. However, after Musharaf, the PPP government completed its tenure in 2013. It had successfully paved way for the smooth transition of power.
Turkey and Pakistan are two Muslim majority countries. Both the countries have witnessed military coups every now and then. They are economically weak and politically unstable, although the Turkish economy has improved during AKP (Justice and Development Party) rule. Turkey has possibly shut down the doors for future dictatorships. The Turkish nation has set a precedent for struggling democracies and nations of any state to rescue their democratic setups. In fact, it has authenticated Abraham Lincoln’s definition of state:
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
It has also given hope to the thriving democracy in Pakistan that whenever there is any attempt of coup d’état it may be foiled by the nation. It has reassured the nation of their power. Once people are in action, no dictator can stand in their way. World history is replete with such examples, for instance, when an African-American Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white American. This ensured confrontation between the black and white communities. Martin Luther King Jr. led the civil rights movement and mobilized the black community in Alabama, USA. It compelled the then US president Johnson to accept the legitimate demands of the Black-community so the Civil Rights Act was signed. In the recent past, when Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry and other judges were removed twice by the dictator, the lawyers-led movement became a formidable force for the restoration of judiciary. No ruler can withstand if the nation stands up for its rights.
For the success of democracy, collective efforts are needed. Like in Turkey, there were combined efforts for suppression of the coup by the nation as well as the government of Turkey. The Turkish Opposition also behaved maturely and despite serious reservations with President Erdogan, they defended democracy.
Countries which witness frequent martial laws are mostly politically unstable, economically weak and socially fragile. This is due to the suspension or abrogation of the Constitution. If the Constitution is violated, it may set precedent for the future as well. The Constitution creates order while its violation creates anarchy. In case of the latter option, the country and the people have to pay the ultimate cost. The dictators rule with impunity with the absence of mechanism of checks and balances.
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It should be implemented in letter and spirit. No one should be allowed to suspend the Constitution. Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 states that, “Anyone who abrogates or suspends the Constitution is guilty of high treason including the abettors.” The violators of any Constitution should be dealt with strictly. Civilians and the military should work within their domains as prescribed by the Constitution.
Media is also considered the fourth pillar of the state and has a greater role to play for the success of democracy and the awareness of the masses. In Turkey, it was the media which spread the message and appeal of Erdogan and got the nation came out on the streets.
Politics of meritocracy should be encouraged. Dynastic politics, presently a customary practice in our country, should be discouraged with wholehearted efforts. The politicians should not indulge in malpractices or behave like dictators. After the emergence of Panama and Bahamas leaks, the incumbent government is reluctant to form a judicial commission to probe the involvement of the higher-ups of our country. This encourages the military to interfere in political domains and also increases resentment among the masses. It gives the impression that laws are different for the rulers and the ruled.
The Turkish suppression of the coup d’état has given hope to struggling democracies particularly that of Pakistan. It has strengthened the notion for thriving democracies that the doors for martial law have been shut down in this day and age. Furthermore, it has reminded the people of their power that they may rescue democracy whenever it is threatened. Democracy is a popular and successful political system where the will of the majority is accepted with the principles of freedom and equality. For political stability, economic boost and social progress, a strong democracy is the need of hour, as it is often quoted, “The worst democracy is better than dictatorship.” Therefore, collective efforts of the nation, politicians, media and judiciary are needed in this regard.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.