An ongoing tango with Turkey
Tallat AzimIt has been a fetish of late to really snuggle up to all things Turkish. While Turkey has always enjoyed a special place in Pakistani hearts (about one of the last few places in the world that reciprocates our affection) one wonders if there is any grand design to this cozying up. We are mostly travelling Turkey, eating Turkish delights and watching Turkish plays. All this has also made it the most sought after tourist destination too, for varying reasons. While we dither and squirm and squabble to our hearts content about the route to take in dealing with the Taliban, even as we mourn our dead, the leader of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, often comes to mind.
I wonder why, even as we have a bit of Turkey in every facet of our lives now, don’t we think more about Atatürk and all that he did to make his country leap frog forward. We watch and despair as the divisions and fissures within us make our spaces shrink more and more and confine us in our own country. Just as the bad policies of over 25 years ago have brought us to this sorry pass, some vision is needed to implement policies which at least begin the process of reversing the trend and may ultimately bring some betterment in the next 25 years.
It sends a shudder down my spine to think what Jinnah would have thought of today’s Pakistan. He, too, was no less a leader than Atatürk in his convictions about being progressive, but did not live long enough to implement his vision. The motley crowd, which spills out so much poisonous garbage and which has become an all-important stake-holder of the state, is the one who opposed the creation of this country tooth and nail. It still does not win seats in Parliament even today, but uses its considerable street power and nuisance value to blackmail and sabotage whenever there is an issue it does not agree with. There is no conforming to even the principles of Islam as it was practiced in its early golden era, only a violent, unwarranted version that’s really damaging all round and has no vision.
It for a moment does not mean that Pakistan was not a good idea. It is and always will remain an idea with promise and potential for the majority of those who live here. While we should be free to practice and follow our personal faiths there has to be less meddling by the state in our beliefs and very little official emphasis on how we practice them. It should be an endeavor to focus on policies that are inclusive, irrespective of any sort of discrimination.
The All Parties Conference (APC) that expressed a willingness to invite the Taliban for dialogue got rather a rude RSVP. Two high profile officers of the Pakistan Army and one soldier were killed and the act acknowledged and owned by the very people being invited to dinner for talks. This has led to a disagreement between the civilian government and the Army high command on how to react to the situation and the Army probably finds itself in something of a “between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
While on the one hand there is grappling with the terrorists, on the other there is the sorting out in Karachi of militant groups who have held sway over the city for several years. It is a difficult menu being served to the new government who want to really get on with projects instead of this cleansing but they do not have a choice. Without a clean slate there is no forward movement. Compared to the past several governments, this probably is the worst time to be in power for any party if it lacks the required grit. And more grit is still awaited from them.
A private school’s teaching of comparative religions to its students of class 6 and above has attracted media attention. It has been made out by some to be almost like a crime against the state. The mind tends to wonder back to Atatürk again. And I also think about how, in the ultimate analysis, are the Turks any less Muslim than us because of what he did. Please God in the Heavens send us one too, if only to make us better human beings, because that would automatically also make us good Muslims as well.
Tallat Azim is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad. This is an abbreviated version of a piece published on The Nation yesterday.