Pakistan, Turkey and the art of the coup

July 9, 2008

Pakistan Army Chief General Pervez Kayani with President Pervez Musharraf“There can be few countries where the art of the coup is so finely honed as in Turkey…” So starts this Reuters blog by Ralph Boulton about the Turkish Army.

It’s well worth a read for anyone interested in comparing Pakistan and Turkey, two Muslim countries which have both struggled to reconcile secularism, democracy, Islam and domination by the military — and all the more so given President Pervez Musharraf’s own admiration for Turkey.

The armies of Turkey and Pakistan are very different — the former considering itself as a champion of secularism and the latter promoting Islam, particularly under President Zia.

But there are similarities too. The Turkish Army does not relish being in power, preferring to exercise control from behind the scenes. But the same argument can be heard in Pakistan, where many would say that getting involved in politics undermines the fighting strength of the Pakistan Army.

In all their interventions and coups, writes Ralph, Turkey’s generals have never acted flagrantly against popular will, but rather stepped in to restore order.  Sounds familiar? The difference is that they then stepped down again to make way for an elected government. Are there lessons in Turkey for Pakistan? Or is Turkey itself sliding into choppier waters, as Ralph’s blog suggests?

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