Tag Archives: Authoritarianism

Democracy vs authoritarianism vs terrorism

By Farrukh Khan Pitafi

It was supposed to be all about terrorism, but somehow it seems more and more about democracy, constitutionalism and their nemesis – authoritarianism. And in a country with a disturbing history of failed spells of democratic rule and equally disastrous autocratic governments, this is precisely what was supposed to be avoided. But now that the Pandora’s Box of debate on civil-military trust deficit has been opened, thanks to the creation of military courts, it is time to build some perspective.

As I write these lines, two images keep haunting me:

The first, of a disheveled, heartbroken Senator Raza Rabbani losing control and bursting into tears on the floor of the house during passage of the 21st amendment. For years, Mr Rabbani has acted as my moral compass. While I have not nearly always agreed with his views, like the North Star, they have most certainly often guided me in the right direction. Now to see him so badly broken is something I will never forget.

The second image is of a young army officer that I met in a conflict zone.

“Sir, I wish was born in another country, had joined their army and died fighting for them. At least at the time of my death, I would have known that my country would own me as a national hero. In Pakistan, no one cares about a soldier’s sacrifices.”

This young man, I was told a few days later, died bravely fighting against militants for his country, Pakistan. His grievances were legitimate. We have lost count of how many brave souls have perished fighting terrorists in recent years.

What is more, quick as we are to accuse the army of being solely responsible for religious militancy in this country, of breeding terrorists in isolation; what we fail to consider is how this accusation does not apply to the young officers and soldiers who are confronting terrorists today.

Wars do strange things to people. For over a decade, we have fought an enemy that is not across the border but within us. We have bled profusely, old doubts and apprehensions have grown complicated beyond recognition.

But behind this fog of war, our old bitterness and old wounds still persist. It all happened so fast that we did not get the time to update our definition of the existential threat.

Now, there is a huge trust deficit which owes itself to the misperception of the enemy.

Over the years I have seen men and women in Khaki and civvies halfheartedly calling terrorism an existential threat. But in reality they are on the lookout for the old enemy.

Always on the lookout.

The khakis, the civvies and the troublemakers

It is about two narratives. One civilian, one military. Both incomplete. Both a product of a weak state’s inability to overcome its constant challenger – India, or to win the ultimate prize – Kashmir. But more of that later.

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Guest post: Enter the Turkish Winter?

This is a guest post by Burak Kadercan, a Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading.

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What is happening in Turkey?

This is the question that many around the globe have been asking for a week. To be fair, people were already interested in Turkey before protests broke out on May 28th, but their curiosity was directed more at its miracles. In the past decade, Turkey has become known as the “model” country for the rest of the Muslim world, proving — almost single-handedly — that political Islam and democracy can co-exist. According to all dimensions of power, Turkey has also been on the rise. Its economy is growing while much of the world struggles with recession. Its voice is being heard and consulted in the regional politics of the Middle East as well as global affairs. Turkey also projects a peculiar sort of soft-power across Eurasia and the Middle East through its popular TV dramas and movies. While it might have been “news” for Turkey to show up on global media in some shape or form 15 years ago, Turkey and its leader, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have now become staples of the global media.

The rising profile of Turkey cannot be exaggerated. When I moved from Istanbul to the so-called Western world more than 10 years ago, people were asking me if Istanbul was its capital. Until last week, they were asking what I thought of the latest episode of Muhtesem Yüzyil — a royal soap opera about Ottoman Empire’s most glorious century (it was the sixteenth) that is broadcast in dozens of countries — or advice for where to eat in Istanbul next time they visit. Now, people keep asking me a different question: what is happening?

“What is happening?” is in fact the wrong question, for something has been happening in Turkey for quite some time. What the world has come to see lately is not the problem, but its symptoms. The symptoms are the country-wide protests and accompanying police brutality, which itself has come to be defined in terms of tear gas (or, simply “gas” in the Turkish lexicon). The chain of events, as any international media outlet can tell you (Turkish media have been playing dead until very recently), started with a handful of peaceful protestors comprised largely of environmentalists and university students occupying Gezi Parki, a relatively small park that is situated right by the Taksim Square, which is not only the financial and cultural epicentre of the city, but also the witness of and meeting place for many mass protests.

Gezi Parki was set to be demolished so that an Ottoman-era barracks that itself had been destroyed in 1940s could be reconstructed (alongside a hyper-mall, hotels, and possibly a mega-mosque) in its place (to be sure, the barracks came before the park). The initial protestors were not political, as the term is used in the Turkish context. They were not criticizing the government per se, but a particular decision that they thought not only would destroy the only green space left in the center of the city, but also was forced on the city without proper dialogue and consultation with its inhabitants. Just a few days before the incident broke out, Erdogan had delivered the final words: “we have made the decision.” This was not the first time that Erdogan used these words when sealing the deal over a contentious issue.

On May 28th, the police forces responded to occupiers with their signature method: gas. In an interesting twist — interesting for Turkish politics at least — the occupiers found extensive support from thousands, who responded not only to the destruction of Gezi Parki, but also, and even more so, to the unprovoked police brutality that has become the norm and not the exception in the last couple of years. Increasing intensity of the “gas bombardment” to disperse the demonstrators, whose numbers were growing exponentially, then triggered a chain reaction. Before anyone knew it, tens of thousands of citizens across the country took to the streets in order to show support for the demonstrators in Taksim. This was most certainly a spontaneous incident. The national news channels had embarrassingly turned a blind eye to what had been happening in the streets, and the protestors coordinated their efforts mainly through Facebook and Twitter.

So, who are the protestors? It is easier to identify them by highlighting who they are not. They are not a homogenous group (not by a long shot). They are not bound by religious beliefs, ethnicity, or even political leanings. What unites them is their anger at AKP, but even more so, at Erdogan. Erdogan, in turn, has done little in the way of calming the demonstrators and defusing the situation. If anything, he called the protestors “looters,” framed the protests in “ideological” terms, blamed the left-wing opposition party for taking part in what he presented as yet another scheme to illegally topple AKP, and in a most alarming turn announced that he and his party were “barely restraining” the so-called “fifty per cent” (which stands for AKP voters per 2011 elections). In an even more frightening and explicit note, Erdogan suggested that if the opposition brings “one hundred thousand” demonstrators to the streets, he can easily summon “one million” to counter them.

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Altaf Hussain’s call for Separation of Karachi – By Saeed Qureshi

The MQM chief Altaf Hussain‘s conditional call for separating Karachi city from Pakistan comes closer to the independence of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965. The Singapore separation from Malaysia that it willingly joined in 1963, was the result of extreme strife, unbridgeable disagreements and ethnic bitterness between the Chinese origin population and the native Malayans mostly Muslims. Is it also the blue print of Jinnahpur that was later swept under the carpet?

Altaf Hussain the fiery and unbridled chief of MQM has enslaved or indoctrinated his Muhajir community, mostly settled in Karachi city after their migration from India in 1947. By his rigid and merciless authoritarianism, instead of integrating, he has isolated his community from the mainstream populace of Pakistan. MQM is basically a movement for the sake of Muhajirs as an ethnic entity and not for the Pakistani nation.

Since its formation in 1984 as Muhajir Qaumi Movement and later renamed as Muttahida Qaumi Movement in 1997, the imprint of MQM in the minds of the people is that of a kind of mafia or an entity of roughnecks or extortionists. It is believed that the special death and terror squads within MQM kill, kidnap and torture their rivals including the critics from within the MQM fold.

There has been also a prevailing impression that has gained ground, that the extortions or the obnoxious “Parchi system” was first started by MQM to raise funds for the organization to become financially robust for carrying out its political and apolitical activities. Undoubtedly Altaf Hussain has proven to be a great and unassailable master and unbending and strict lord of his party.

He can summon the multitudes of Urdu speaking Pakistanis and Muhajirs within a matter of hours and with one call. They all gather at a venue with their heads down and hands motionless unless raised to cheer or clap for the scathing tirade of their great master. They sit rather motionless for hours together listening to his long, dreary and high pitched discourses as if they have been bewitched or mesmerized. There is a gossip that anyone who does not clap or come to the assemblage is dealt with vindictively.

Several pioneering cohorts and companions are alleged to have lost their lives in all these years ostensibly due to their opposition of the ruthless leader with symptoms of indiscretion. Their names are in the public knowledge.

Continue reading Altaf Hussain’s call for Separation of Karachi – By Saeed Qureshi

Why India Is Democratic and Pakistan Is Not?

The Indian-Pakistani Divide

Why India Is Democratic and Pakistan Is Not

By Christophe Jaffrelot

Many comparisons of India and Pakistan attribute India’s democracy to Hinduism and Pakistan’s autocracy to Islam. Philip Oldenburg’s new book steers clear of this argument, focusing on historical, political, and external factors to explain how India came out ahead. …

Read more : Foreign Affairs