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Pakistan Today Editorial – 15th March 2016

Turkey’s problems

And Turkey the problem

Turkey did not learn much from its friend Pakistan about blowback, unfortunately, when it comes to leveraging a porous border and fiddling in a proxy civil war. Already it is a very different country than the one that broke from its ‘zero problems with neighbours’ policy to take a stake in the Syrian war; the pro-Saudi position that demanded Assad’s ouster above anything else. Now, five years down the road, the war has clearly come to Turkey, its ties with NATO are strained, there is open diplomatic hostility with Russia, it has a Kurdish uprising on its hands, and its influence in Syria is all but finished. Assad, on the other hand, is the strongest he’s been in the war.

Things were much different, of course, when Erdogan decided to open his borders to arms supplies to the so called Free Syrian Army (FSA) – which has since disappeared. It has also become clear since that Ankara also turned a blind eye to first hundreds then thousands of al Qaeda, etc, fighters storming into Syria. Back then the Istanbul Stock Exchange was turning over a billion dollars a day, the lira was strong, and tourism revenue and hot money inflow made the bulk of Turkey’s ‘robust’ economy.

But then the bomb blasts started. Then the hot money started fleeing, then tourism started drying, and then the lira dipped. Now there is a weak economy, rising terrorism and an increasingly authoritarian president whose personal dislike of the Syrian regime, and stubborn disregard for changing ground reality, is in large part to blame for Turkey’s problems. People are realising just why the country has come from being the most admired and respected in the Muslim world to the point where it is falling on itself. That these problems stem not from Turkey’s own failings, but partaking in an ugly outside war, is also turning the situation into a local PR disaster. It’s not just that Turkey has problems. It’s that Turkey, especially its president, has become the problem.

MQM, Mustafa Kamal and the mainstream parties

A complicated mess

Mustafa Kamal has managed to enlist the support of another MQM old timer, adding a sixth member to his team. He has also announced a public meeting in the second week of April where the new party would be christened. Kamal has deftly suggested some sort of indemnification for activists involved in serious crimes. This would gain him the support of the families of hundreds of MQM activists languishing in jails.

Farooq Sattar who fights a rearguard action has accused Rangers of torturing MQM workers in judicial custody. Sindh Home Minister has however rejected the allegation as a canard meant to cover up MQM’s own weaknesses. Despite the PPP distancing itself from the MQM, there seems to be no let up in the process of its accountability in Sindh. While initially hoping to tweak the accountability laws in the name of preserving provincial autonomy, a defensive PPP now only demands its extension to Punjab. Bilawal has meanwhile given a call for an alliance between PPP, PML-N and PTI. There is little hope of PTI agreeing as it hopes to capture the other two parties’ turf in the next elections.

The Interior Minister has declined to set up a JIT to investigate Kamal’s charge of RAW funding Altaf Hussain on the ground that the MQM dissident had failed to give any proof. Nisar has however asked the FIA to interview Sarfraz Merchant who claimed he possessed documentary evidence. In the case of the MQM, the PML-N is acting cautiously for fear of any misstep causing harm to the system. The establishment has given no indication so far of being desirous to sit in the driving seat though it would like to continue to dictate things from the sidelines through ISI, Rangers, NAB and FIA. Political parties will have to display sufficient maturity to be in a position where they are seen to be both de facto and de jure rulers. Among other things they need to clear their names of widespread charges of corruption and lack of intra-party democracy.

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