February 06, 2010
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, inaugurated the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Internal Security in New Delhi today. In his address, the Prime Minister called for effective coordination between the Centre and the States to face the challenges of Internal Security. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:
“We have gathered here today to discuss issues relating to our internal security, an area that require utmost vigil, sustained and coordinated attention of both the Central and the State governments. We must periodically together review the systems that are in place for ensuring the safety and security of our country and our citizens, assess the threats that we face and take appropriate remedial action to deal with those threats. It is in this spirit that this Conference is being held. I compliment the Home Minister and his team for organizing it and for the good work that they have done in the last one year. I welcome and greet each one of you and I sincerely hope that the deliberations of this Conference will contribute substantively to the strengthening of our internal security.
All of you are aware of the major threats to our security. Hostile groups and elements operate from across the border to perpetrate terrorist acts in our country. The State of Jammu & Kashmir bears the brunt of the acts of these groups. There is insurgency and violence in the North-East. Many States are affected by Left–Wing extremism, which I have in the past referred to as the greatest threat to our internal security. There are also those trying to divide our society on communal and regional lines. Each one of these threats requires a strong effort, determination, hard work and continuous vigilance to tackle. These threats to our society, to our polity and our country constitute a challenge that we must and we shall meet effectively at all costs.
When we met last time in August 2009, I had mentioned the steps we had taken to improve our internal security environment between January and August. These included the setting up of four regional hubs of the National Security Guard at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad and the setting up of the National Investigation Agency. Since then we have made further progress. The Multi Agency Centre (MAC) in the Intelligence Bureau now shares intelligence with other agencies, including those of the State Governments and Union Territories on a continuous and real time basis. Reciprocally, the other agencies are also obliged to share intelligence with the Multi Agency Centre. The Centre operates on a 24 hour basis and I expect that this arrangement for sharing and exchange of information and intelligence will greatly help us not only in apprehending those responsible for acts that vitiate our security environment but also in preventing such acts. I also understand that the Ministry of Home Affairs has initiated action to set up dedicated and secure online connectivity for exchange of real time intelligence and security related information between the Centre and the States. I would urge all Hon’ble Chief Ministers to benefit from these facilities and arrangements.
We have also made progress in some other areas. To enable quick movement of anti-terrorist forces, the Director General of the National Security Guard and certain other designated officers are now empowered to requisition aircraft. The Central Industrial Security Force Act has been amended so that the Force can provide security to establishments and undertakings in the joint and private sectors. The National Investigation Agency has started its work with cases for investigation and prosecution having been assigned to it. It is my expectation that the States would make the fullest possible use of this agency so that our fight against terrorism can be a forceful and united effort.
The terrorist strikes in Mumbai in November 2008 had made us painfully aware of the need to strengthen our coastal security. The National Committee on Coastal security under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary has been constituted to adopt an integrated approach to this very vital issue. The Committee has taken action to increase the level of patrolling and surveillance along the Indian coastline and bring about greater coordination between the various agencies that can contribute to security along our coasts. The issue of multi-purpose identity cards with biometric features to residents in coastal areas is expected to be completed by September 2010. The process of registration of boats and vessels has gathered momentum. Standard operating procedures have been finalized and communicated to the State Government. These and other steps being taken should help substantially in making our coastline safer and secure.
While we have made progress on different fronts, we are also aware that we have a lot more to achieve. I would like to take this opportunity to assure all of you present here that there will be no let up in our commitment and in our efforts. However, our success also depends in large measure on the response of the State Governments. While speaking to Chief Secretaries of States a few days back I had said that many issues in today’s world require a response that is coordinated not only between the affected States but also between the Centre and the States. Internal security is certainly one such issue, and for that matter a critical issue which affects the pace of our growth and development.
Apart from coordinating efforts, there are certain specific steps which the States could take. I would like to take this opportunity to urge the Chief Ministers to create Special Intervention Units in their States to enhance the speed and decisiveness of the Quick Response Teams. The States may also like to develop specialized commando forces which could be deployed to act as a deterrent to terrorist acts. I would urge Chief Ministers to make full use of the scheme formulated by the Central Government to assist the Special Branches of States in strengthening their intelligence capabilities.
A very basic pre-requisite of any internal security system is an adequate number of policemen who are well trained. The problems of inadequate number of policemen and deficiency in training of the police personnel have been underlined time and again. Unfortunately there has not been adequate progress in these areas. The figures collected by the Ministry of Home Affairs show that at the end of September 2009, about three lakh ninety four thousand of the sanctioned posts in the State and Union Territory police forces were lying vacant. This constitutes a large proportion – about 20 percent - of the total sanctioned strength. I would urge State Chief Ministers to take expeditious action to fill these vacant posts. There is also a need to ensure good infrastructure for our police forces to be effective and efficient. At present for all States as a whole, around 80 percent of the police budget is used for salaries, allowances and pensions. The States should increase the proportion of the budget earmarked for police infrastructure and police training. I hope to see greater efforts from States and enhanced allocations in State budgets for recruitment and training of police personnel and for improving the infrastructural facilities available to our police forces. We should also think of special incentives for policemen, and indeed other government officials, posted in difficult areas.
During the course of this Conference, the internal security issues that we face will be discussed in detail. I will only touch upon a few of them. As far as Jammu & Kashmir is concerned, there has been a marked decline in the number of terrorist incidents from 2008 to 2009. But, infiltration levels have shown an increase. Recently there have been some incidents which are disturbing. In the North-East also, the number of incidents has gone down in 2009 as compared to 2008. The number of incidents related to Left-Wing extremism has however increased in the same period, as has the number of civilians and security personnel killed in these incidents. This is worrisome. The Left–Wing extremists continue to target vital installations and kill innocent civilians in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal. The Centre and the States have to find ways and means of jointly fighting this menace. As I have said earlier, our response to Left–Wing extremism must be calibrated to avoid alienating our people, especially those in the tribal areas. It must also go hand in hand with social and economic development of areas affected by Left–Wing extremism, bringing them into the mainstream of national progress. Tribal communities in particular, should get full benefit of our development schemes and development programmes. This is only possible by improving service delivery in tribal dominated areas.
I would also like to make a mention of the menace of counterfeit currency notes. There are indications that Fake Indian Currency Notes are being printed and smuggled into India from outside our country. There is obviously a need for a coordinated approach by the Central and State agencies to tackle this menace; which has serious implications for our economy. In some instances of recovery of fake currency, especially by banks, there has been a reluctance to register the First Information Report. This has to be avoided and all such cases must be thoroughly investigated. The States could also designate a nodal agency to investigate cases of seizure or recovery of Fake Currency Notes and set up a state level committee for continuous vigilance in the matter, as has been suggested by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
We have a hard task ahead but one that can be and must be achieved with determination and coordinated action. As we deliberate upon the serious issues that constitute the agenda of this Conference, it will be in the spirit of strengthening each others’ hands. We will only succeed if we are united as a nation in addressing the concerns related to our internal security. In conclusion, I wish you all the very best in your endeavours and hope that this conference will lead to a better understanding of internal security issues and will also result in more effective responses to the threats we face as a nation.”
Playing a host to the naval forces of 12 eastern countries, including some which have a prolonged maritime boundary disputes with China, as part of the “Milan” exercise”, New Delhi today sent out a strong message to Beijing on the emerging power-structure of nations that lie east of India.
Separately, it downplayed the opinion of the US, which had portrayed India as a possible “net provider of security in the Indian Ocean”, saying it had no intent of playing the “role of a headmaster”.
The five-day naval exercise, a part of India’s ‘Look East policy, took off at Port Blair today.
When asked if this conglomeration of countries, who do not have the best relations with China, could sow the “seeds of suspicion”, the Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said: “The exercise was not a “ security bloc against any maritime force….. Suspicions should not arise”.
Diplomatically, the Admiral is right, but these nations are crucial for India as it enters into power game with China. “Matters like formation of a security bloc always leave the rivals guessing,” said an officer, who was at the exercise today. “Some of the participating nations have overlapping maritime claims and we have border issues (with China)…The coming together of the naval forces is a step forward to tackle man-made and natural disasters,” said the Admiral. In Naval parlance, man-made disasters include terror attacks like the 26/11in which the sea route was used.
At least three of the participating nations --- Vietnam, Malaysia and Phillipines --- have serious maritime disputes with China, whose large number of crude oil-laden ships pass through the waters of these countries. China has been disputing the control of few islands off the maritime boundaries of these countries.
“India, in the past, has build “bridges” with these nations. However, the participation of countries like Australia and New Zealand in the “Milan” exercise showcases the success of our Look East policy,” said a senior officer.
In response to another query if the Navy was factoring in the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean, Admiral Verma said: “Navy makes its plans while taking into account of what is happening in the region and not for any specific country.”
The Navy chief also downplayed the latest assessment of the US in its Quadrennial Defence Review in which it saw a greater role for India in the Indian Ocean as a “net security provider”. “We are not coming in as headmaster…. We would like to initiate a process …and come together at constructive level,” he said.
Arvind Panagariya, 6 February 2010, 12:00am IST
India-China comparisons often take 1980 or a later year as the starting point. But a balanced understanding of the relative achievements of the
two countries requires a look at prior decades as well.
Chairman Mao Zedong founded the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, establishing the Communist Party of China (CPC) as the sole authority. Approximately around the same time, India opted for a democratic regime under the leadership of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. While most Indians have a good idea of what democracy delivered to them between 1950 and 1980, they perhaps know far less about China. Today, it is commonplace to argue that the Chinese economy is performing better because authoritarianism allows its government to be more effective. But few observers care to record the gigantic failures of the same authoritarianism in the early decades.
Industry and agriculture in China made progress similar to that in India in the early years of the PRC. Indeed, China was far more successful in land redistribution that quickly equalised ownership of arable land across households. On the industrial front, it set up several major factories with large-scale Soviet assistance.
Then, in 1958, Mao decided that China had to massively mobilise its workers to speed up agricultural and industrial development. He launched the so-called "Long Leap Forward", calling for the conversion of collective farms into gigantic "people's communes". By end-1958, party cadres had created 24,000 communes out of 753,000 collective farms. Each commune consisted of 5,000 households, 10,000 workers and 10,000 acres of cultivable land.
The communes were to engage in local industrial production, giant irrigation and construction projects, rural schooling and organisation of local militia. Consistent with Mao's disdain for intellectuals, ideological purity was to take precedence over technical expertise. The result was the adoption of unscientific "innovative" methods of cultivation such as close cropping and deep plowing to produce grain, and setting up of backyard furnaces to produce steel. Furthermore, factories were encouraged to move to the countryside to give farmers first-hand factory experience.
The "Leap" proved a disaster. Diversion of peasants to non-agricultural activities, unscientific methods of cultivation, breakdown of the traditional incentive system and diseconomies of large communes combined with bad weather led to an economic debacle. Grain output sharply fell in 1959 and 1960 and made no recovery in 1961. Nevertheless, to show to higher authorities that the Leap was succeeding, local party cadres went on to file inflated output reports. The reports, in turn, led the central and provincial authorities to procure vast quantities of grain to supply towns and cities. Keen to demonstrate to the outside world that the Leap was a success, Mao also saw to it that significant quantities of grain were procured for export.
Such vast procurements in the face of poor crops led to massive food shortage in the countryside. From 1959 to 1961, China witnessed the worst famine mankind has known. Though little of this calamity became known to the outside world at the time, we now know that the famine killed as many as 20 to 30 million people.
The failure of the Leap temporarily weakened Mao and strengthened pragmatists Liu Shaoqi, president, PRC, and Deng Xiaoping, general secretary, CPC. They went on to reverse the policies of the Leap with happy results. By 1965, agriculture and industry had recovered to their 1957 levels. But Mao and other radicals disapproved of this revisionism and struck back with the so-called "Cultural Revolution" in 1966.
Mao mobilised the youth, mainly high school and college students, asking them to join the Red Guard and attack the four 'olds': old customs, old habits, old culture and old thinking. While public humiliation was to be the commonest punishment for those identified as carriers of 'old' elements, the Red Guard often went far beyond it, engaging in destruction, physical abuse and killings.
Distinguished historian Jonathan Spence provides a graphic description of the destruction and death the Cultural Revolution wrought. "With all schools and colleges closed for the staging of revolutionary struggle, millions of the young were encouraged by the Cultural Revolution's leaders to demolish the old buildings, temples, and art objects in their towns and villages, and to attack their teachers, school administrators, party leaders, and parents." Spence adds, "With the euphoria, fear, excitement, and tension that gripped the country, violence grew apace. Thousands of intellectuals and others were beaten to death or died of injuries. Countless others committed suicide...Thousands more were imprisoned, often in solitary confinement, for years. Millions were relocated to purify themselves through labour in the countryside."
Liu Shaoqi was purged and killed in 1969. Deng Xiaoping was also purged but miraculously survived. He would later reemerge, be purged again and reemerge to launch China's open-door policy. But the ghost of Mao would forever haunt China: it would be Mao's large-size portrait and not Deng's that would hang on top of Tiananmen. Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents would be attacked. And, even as late as 2010, CPC cells would sprout in private businesses. Will such a China smoothly transition to democracy?
The writer is a professor at Columbia University.
Afghanistan is in turmoil, with tensions rising and people dying every day. Many of them — including women, children and the elderly — have nothing in common with terrorists or militants.
The government is losing control of its territory: of the 34 provinces, the Taliban controls a dozen. The production and export of narcotics is growing. There is a real danger of destabilization extending to neighboring countries, including the republics of Central Asia as well as Pakistan.
What began after Sept. 11, 2001, as a seemingly appropriate military response aimed at rooting out terrorism could end in a major strategic failure.
We need to understand why this is happening and what can still be done to turn around a nearly disastrous situation. The recent conference in London, attended by representatives from many countries and international organizations, is a first step in a new direction.
After diligent preparations, delegates to the London meeting adopted decisions that could help to turn things around — but only if the experience of the past three decades is reassessed and its lessons learned.
In 1979, the Soviet leadership sent troops to Afghanistan, justifying that move not just by the desire to help friendly elements there but also by the need to stabilize a neighboring country. The greatest mistake was failing to understand Afghanistan’s complexity — its patchwork of ethnic groups, clans and tribes, its unique traditions and minimal governance.
The result was the opposite of what we had intended: even greater instability, a war with thousands of victims and dangerous consequences for our own country. On top of it, the West, particularly the United States, kept fueling the fire in the spirit of the Cold War; it remained ready to support just about anyone against the Soviet Union, giving no thought to possible long-term consequences.
As part of perestroika in the mid-1980s, the new Soviet leadership drew conclusions from our troubles in Afghanistan. We made two crucial decisions. First, we set the goal of withdrawing our troops. Second, we intended to work with all parties in the conflict and with the governments involved to achieve national reconciliation in Afghanistan and make it a peaceful and neutral country that threatened no one.
Looking back, I still believe that it was a proper and responsible two-track course. I am sure that if we had fully succeeded, many troubles and disasters could have been avoided. Our new policy was not just a declaration; during my tenure, we worked hard and in good faith to implement it.
To succeed, we needed sincere and responsible cooperation from all sides. The Afghan government was ready to compromise and went more than halfway to achieve reconciliation. In a number of regions, things started to improve.
However, Pakistan, particularly its top brass, and the United States blocked all avenues to progress. They wanted one thing: the withdrawal of Soviet troops, which they thought would leave them in full control. By denying Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah’s government even minimal support, Boris Yeltsin played into their hands when he took office.
During the 1990’s, the world seemed indifferent to Afghanistan. In that decade the country’s government fell into the hands of the Taliban, who turned Afghanistan into a haven for Islamic fundamentalists and an incubator of terrorism.
Sept. 11 was a rude awakening for Western leaders. Even then, however, the West made a decision that was not carefully thought through and therefore proved flawed.
After ousting the Taliban government, the United States thought that the military victory, achieved at little cost, was final and had basically solved the long-term problem.
The initial success was probably one reason why the Americans expected a “cakewalk” in Iraq, taking a fatal step in a militaristic strategy there as well. In the meantime, they built a democratic façade in Afghanistan, to be guarded by the International Security Assistance Force — i.e., NATO troops. Increasingly, NATO sought to assume the role of a global policeman.
The rest is history. The military path in Afghanistan turned out to be less and less sustainable. That was an open secret; even the U.S. ambassador, in recently disclosed cables, said so.
I have been asked several times in recent months what I would recommend to President Obama, who inherited this mess from his predecessor. My answer has been the same each time: a political solution and troop withdrawal. That requires a strategy of national reconciliation.
Now, at long last, a strategy very similar to the one we offered more than two decades ago and that our partners rebuffed was presented at the London meeting: reconciliation, involving all more or less reasonable elements in reconstruction, and emphasizing a political rather than a military solution.
The United Nations envoy to Afghanistan said in a recent interview that what’s needed is demilitarization of the entire strategy in Afghanistan. What a shame this wasn’t said, and done, long before!
The chances of success — success rather than military “victory” — are at best 50-50. There have been some contacts with certain elements within the Taliban. Still more needs to be done to bring Iran into the process; a lot of hard work remains to be done with the Pakistanis.
Russia could become an important part of the Afghan settlement process. The West should appreciate the position Russia’s leaders are taking on Afghanistan. Far from gloating and letting the West bite the bullet while we wash our hands of the whole thing, Russia is ready to cooperate with the West because it understands that it is in its own best interests to counter the threats coming from Afghanistan.
Russia is right in asking why, during the years of U.S. and NATO military presence in Afghanistan, little or nothing has been done to stem the production of narcotics, large amounts of which flow to Russia through its neighbors’ porous borders. Russia is also right to demand access to economic opportunities in Afghanistan, including the reconstruction of dozens of projects built with our help and then destroyed during the 1990s.
Russia is Afghanistan’s neighbor, and its interests must be taken into account. The logic seems self-evident, but sometimes a reminder is in order.
I would like to hope that a new day is dawning for long-suffering Afghanistan, a ray of hope for its millions of people. The opportunity is there, but much is needed to seize it: realism, persistence and, last but not least, honesty in learning from the mistakes made in the past and the ability to act on that knowledge.
Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union.
This question overshadowed the minds, and discussions, at two global meetings of top leaders last week, the Afghanistan conference in London and the World Economic Forum in Davos. On all evidence, it would now be safe to conclude that the big powers have decided in principle on the issue of whether to exit or not. The questions that now remain are, when, and how. Public opinion in Britain and even in the US is tiring of the war. Clearer indication of this came from a statement made by UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband at the London conference that this war had already gone on longer than World War II. So the implication is, it cannot become just a war without end or purpose. So time has come to fix “realistic” targets and objectives or, rather, devise a new definition of victory.
This is what India needs to think and worry about. More importantly, we now have to start thinking about the sequence of events that may unfold as the US-led forces fight, talk, negotiate and bribe their way out of Afghanistan.
The clearest indication that they had thrown in the towel already came in the London conference when an idea so far whispered in off-record briefings was stated publicly: the need to find “good” Taliban to share power with. Even Hamid Karzai was made to endorse it. Nobody was talking of winning that “war” any more, but only of bringing it to a stage where a large “moderate” section of the Taliban can be persuaded to break rank and agree to a power-sharing arrangement. Of course, the funniest moment in that conference was Karzai announcing with a straight face that the Americans will now help him fight corruption in his country.
Theoretically, there are four ways Obama could begin his withdrawal middle of next year, or maybe a little later, but in this presidential term for sure:
* With a clear-cut military victory with the annihilation of the Taliban and the ceding of all Pashtun loyalty to a West-supported government in Kabul. This is a near impossibility given the military realities and tribal divisions. More importantly, this is an outcome that suits Pakistan least of all, and they will ensure it does not come to pass. Also, the modern history of big-power military expeditions tells you that such decisive military-political outcomes are impossible.
* With a total defeat for the US-led forces and a humiliating retreat as in the case of Vietnam. This is an impossibility too. Military realities of Afghanistan are very different from Vietnam where the Soviet-Chinese bloc was actively aiding the Viet Cong and where, even domestically in the US, the justification of terrorist threat was not available. That war was purely ideological. This is also about self-preservation.
* A withdrawal after a division of Afghanistan, much on the pattern of the Koreas, leaving the south-eastern, mostly Pashtun regions under a different, Talibanised local leadership “supervised” by Pakistan, and securing the rest with a friendly regime of the northern tribes. This would have been a possibility if the Americans were sure of the Pakistanis being able to keep this Pashtun government in control. Chances are even the Pakistanis will fear this as a Pashtun government in Kandahar would make their hold on their own Frontier districts untenable.
* The fourth scenario is the Americans being able to declare some kind of a victory and get out, leaving power to a friendly and “protected” government in Kabul much on the pattern of Iraq. This is the most likely and, from the Western powers’ point of view, the most desirable of all prospects. But it can only be achieved in collaboration with Pakistan. The Pakistanis will have to help broker some kind of peace, and a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban that promises, besides other things, that their territories will no longer be available to Al Qaeda. The signals from policy-makers in both London and Davos last week were clear: a new thrust was now being launched to reach this outcome. This was no longer going to be a military war to the finish.
This is what India has to prepare for, and there is no time to lose. In the course of a war that has gone longer than World War II already, while we have harped non-stop on the dangers next door, we have also become complacent. This is the kind of smug complacence that sets in when, to use an Americanism, you know that there is a fire tender parked permanently next to your door. Translated, it means, yes, there is trouble in the Pak-Afghan region but the Americans and their drones are dealing with it so we can wait and watch. This is going to change soon.
Even the progress to that outcome will challenge us. As Pakistan’s role in such a “settlement” becomes more pronounced, it is bound to pressure its Western allies to lean on India to “resolve” the Kashmir issue as well.
Already, frustrated at their failure to control terrorism, many Western leaders are whispering that Kashmir too is a major cause of pan-Islamic radicalisation. As their own notion of military non-success (if not defeat) in Af-Pak grows, they will be more inclined to join the Pakistanis in pressing for a more “comprehensive” solution for “the most dangerous region in the world”. Except, now they will add India to that region, even if as the country most exposed, and vulnerable to jehadi terror.
The game is now beginning to change and we have no choice but to play to new rules. Soon enough, we and Pakistan may pretty much be on our own. The comfort of an almost permanent Western military presence on Pakistan’s west will eventually go and we will watch very carefully for what replaces it, and if we have any leverage with that successor. Even more challenging is to guess what kind of a regime will be ruling Pakistan by then. It is, therefore, even more imperative that we continue to engage with whoever calls the shots in Pakistan in coming months. We cannot be lazy because, as they often say, objects in this mirror are far closer than you think.
Pakistani leaders often project Jammu & Kashmir as Pakistan’s jugular vein in justification of their supporting jihadi terrorist groups against India in an attempt to change the status quo in J&K. It is not.
2. Karachi is Pakistan’s jugular vein. It is the economic capital of Pakistan contributing a substantial part of Pakistan’s industrial production and tax revenue. It has Pakistan’s only functioning international port. The Gwadar port, on the Mekran coast of Balochistan, constructed with Chinese assistance and commissioned three years ago, has so far failed to come up to expectations as an alternative to Karachi as an international port due to the continuing Baloch freedom struggle and the inability of the Pakistani authorities to develop the subsidiary infrastructure to connect Gwadar with the other economic centres of Pakistan, particularly in Punjab.
3. Karachi is also of strategic significance not only to Pakistan, but also to the NATO troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is still Pakistan’s most important naval base. Gwadar is being developed as an alternate naval base to reduce the vulnerability of the Pakistan Navy in Karachi, but it is estimated that it will take another five to eight years before Gwadar as a naval base starts functioning in a satisfactory manner.
4. Karachi’s importance to the NATO forces in Afghanistan arises from the fact that the NATO continues to be dependent in a large measure on Karachi for providing logistic supplies to its forces in Afghanistan. While the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been able to frequently disrupt the movement by road of these supplies across the Pashtun tribal belt, it has not so far succeeded in disrupting the landing of these supplies from ships in Karachi and their onward movement till they reach the tribal belt. This would show that security continues to be tight and satisfactory in the Karachi port itself as well as on the road axis from Karachi through which these supplies initially move before reaching the Pashtun tribal belt,
5. The TTP’s oft-reported plans to disrupt the unloading of the supplies at the Karachi port and their initial onward movement have not succeeded so far because it has not been able to build up local support in the large Pashtun community in Karachi, which is believed to have more Pashtuns than Peshawar, the capital of the Pashtun majority North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).The road transport economy of Karachi is largely in the hands of the local Pashtun businessmen, who own most of the truck fleets operating in the area and come foreward to help the NATO forces in maintaining their logistic supplies despite frequent attacks by the TTP as the convoys move through the Pashtun tribal areas in the NWFP and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
6. Despite frequent allegations by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Mohajir organization headed by Mr.Altaf Hussain, living in political exile in the UK, about the increasing Talibanisation of Karachi, there is no reliable evidence to show that the TTP has been able to develop a foothold in Karachi. The Pashtuns of Karachi still largely support the secular Awami National Party (ANP), which is strongly opposed to the TTP.
7. The renewed wave of violence in Karachi in recent weeks is not due to the ingress of the TTP into the city. It is due to two of the three old animosities, which have always made Karachi the most violent city of Pakistan. These three animosities are--- the Mohajirs vs the Sindhis, the Mohajirs vs the Pashtuns, and the Punjabi Sunnis vs the Mohajir Shias. After Pakistan became independent in 1947, the Mohajirs, who are the migrants from India and their descendents, replaced the Sindhis, the sons of the soil, as the largest ethnic group in Karachi. The resulting tensions between the Mohajirs and the Sindhis were exploited by the Zia-ul-Haq military regime to crush the Sindhi nationalist movement and to counter the influence of the Pakistan People’s Party. The Mohajir-Sindhi animosity, which led to a large number of violent incidents in the 1980s and the early 1990s, has since come down. The PPP and the MQM coming together in a coalition government in the Sindh province has contributed to the dilution of this animosity.
8. The Mohajir-Pashtun animosity was a bye-product of Zia’s policy of encouraging a large number of Pashtuns to migrate to Karachi in order to keep the Mohajirs as well as the Sindhis under control. Zia’s rule was marked by large street clashes between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns, both of whom are migrants to Karachi----the Mohajirs from India and the Pashtuns from the NWFP and the FATA. Despite the ANP, which commands the political support of large sections of the Karachi Pashtuns, being part of the ruling coalition in Sindh, the animosity between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns has acquired a new virulence in recent months due to the ill-advised attempts of the MQM to reduce the political influence of the ANP in Karachi.
9. The MQM will never be able to replace the ANP’s influence in the Pashtun community. By seeking to undermine the ANP in Karachi, it will be only facilitating the Talibanisation of the Pashtuns of Karachi. The TTP will be the ultimate beneficiary of the increasing animosity between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns.
10. The Punjabi Sunni-Mohajir Shia animosity has been an outcome of Zia’s policy of resettling a large number of Punjabi Sunni ex-servicemen in the rural areas of Sindh in order to reduce the rural influence of the Sindhi nationalists. While large sections of the Punjabi Sunni migrants support the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of Mr.Nawaz Sharif, an increasing number has been supporting anti-Shia extremist organizations such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the mysterious Jundullah about which not much is known.
11. The increasing virulence of the Mohajir-Pashtun and Punjabi Sunni-Mohajir Shia animosities is once again making Karachi a bleeding city . Since the beginning of this year, over 50 persons are reported to have died in Mohajir-Pashtun clashes and about a hundred Shias have been killed in attacks on Shia religious gatherings by Sunni extremists.
12.If the increasing violence in Karachi is not controlled in time, it will further damage an already weak Pakistani economy, pave the way for the ingress of the Taliban into the city and create additional problems for maintaining the logistic supplies to the NATO troops in Afghanistan. There have been unconfirmed reports that the US has already started examining the feasibility of developing Gwadar as a fall-back option to bring logistic supplies by sea and transporting them by road to Afghanistan in order to reduce its dependence on Karachi. Even if these reports are correct, it will be some years before this idea could be given a concrete shape. Till then, law and order has to be maintained in Karachi and the efforts of the TTP to gain a foothold there thwarted.
13. Despite the deteriorating situation in Karachi, one has the impression that neither the federal Government of President Asif Ali Zardari nor the Pakistan Army nor the US-led NATO forces is paying serious attention to the important task of restoring law and order in Karachi. One sees a disturbing policy of drift which could prove dangerous. The importance of Karachi for the success of the US “war” against the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda has hardly been given any prominence in the discussions in Washington DC on Af-Pak policy options. ( 7-2-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )
“There was this young man, with 1960s Turkish matinee idol looks, smiling to attract my attention, in that throng of media and TV cameramen around us. Suddenly the penny dropped. Yes, a few weeks earlier while I had a few drinks at my First secretary's flat in Ankara, he sipped lemon water. He was very keen to meet with me. So, I now went over and shook his hands. That was in end 1992.
”And the young man was Abdullah Gul, recently home after a stint ( 7 years) at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah and put in charge of foreign affairs by Najmettin Erbakan, President of Islamist Welfare party. Most ambassadors in Ankara avoided looking up Erbakan, but I kept my promise. Hence the media attention.
”Our paths crossed more often after he became state minister in Erbakan's coalition government in 1996. Once when I enquired about his party's plans to convert a church in west Turkey into a mosque, he said it was not a priority issue. He shrugged off a statement on Kashmir when with Erbakan he visited Pakistan as sound bites under pressure.”
From Abdullah Gul – Turkey's Next President ! 26 April, 2007
The author was posted as Indian ambassador to Turkey (1992-96 ) and had an earlier stint (1969-73)
This piece was written when foreign minister, Abdullah Gul was declared the candidate of the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), with Islamic roots, for Presidential elections on 27 April , 2007 .
Gul studied economics in Turkey and UK and was born in a pious Muslim family of Kayseri. AKP's backers are upwardly mobile conservative trading and industrial classes from central Anatolian towns such as Kayseri, Konyaand beyond away from Istanbul and Ankara. The inhabitants of these barren harsh lands have always been conservative .They resisted conversion to Christianity when the religion spread from Palestine to Syria to south east Turkey and to Europe.To avoid conversion they would disappear into labyrinth of caves in Cappadocia , also famous for its moon surface and chimneys . In spite of 80 years of Jacobin style secularism they remain conservative Muslims but are not fanatics.
Their wanting a share in the economic cake clashes with the vested interests of the supporters of the secular establishment which has ruled Turkey almost since the creation of the republic in 1923.
In April ,2007 , AKP had 354 seats in the Parliament and needed a two-thirds majority vote in the House in the first or second rounds (367 of 550) or a simple majority in the third (276) or fourth. If four rounds fail, Parliament is dissolved for fresh elections. This Constitutional change was made after the 1980 military take over since prior to that the Parliament went through dozens of futile ballots to elect a president while left-right violence around the country killed many hundreds.
However , the 2002 November Parliamentary elections had stunned Turkey and the West , even AKP itself which obtained two-thirds majority (365 out of 550). But the first time majority by an Islamic party was achieved with only a third (35 percent) of the total votes cast, 10% being the cut off point. The only other left of the center Republican Peoples party (RPP) with 16% votes won a third of the seats. Over 45% votes were wasted, the outgoing ruling coalition partners winning no seats. High 10% threshold was reportedly agreed upon to keep Kurdish parties out, which polled around 8%.
Gul, moderate and soft spoken, became Prime Minister in November 2002 and his party’s landslide victory allowed the Constitution to be amended for party chief Recep Tayipp Erdogan, who had been barred from elections, to enter Parliament in a bye election. He took over from Gul in March, 2003. Erdogan was tried for utterances like "Minarets are our bayonets, domes are our helmets, mosques are our barracks, believers are our soldiers," convicted and jailed for 4 months .He had also said "Thank God, I am for Shariah," "For us, democracy is a means to an end." (Shades of Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria) and, "One cannot be a secularist and a Muslim at the same time."
To allay Western fears Gul and Erdogan went on a charm offensive to Washington and European capitals saying that AKP was a moderate right of centre party. Its well educated leadership in western attire was a relief compared to Islamic leadership elsewhere. Their apparent fervor to join Europe Union established party's Western credentials.
Later the party would cleverly use EU's Copenhagen entry criteria to emasculate the military dominated policy making National Security Council by reducing it to an advisory body.
It has however become quite clear that Turkey's efforts for full EU membership after 9/11 are unlikely to be consummated but the game of endless negotiations would keep both Europe and AKP engaged. Turkey’s best chance for entering EU was in 1986 , when it declined the offer made along with Greece . Rebuffed by EU’s rabid Christian leadership led by the likes of former Valery Giscard d'Estaing who said that admitting Turkey "would be the end of the European Union" because Turkey has "a different culture, a different approach, a different way of life - it is not a European country", by now Turks , a proud people, are quite reconciled to not joining EU. In 1996Turkey signed a Customs Union Agreement , so the trade with EU is flourishing.
Since 2002 Turkey's secular parties remain disunited and in disarray. Their rule is remembered for pervasive corruption and squabbling..
But in spite of all AKP endeavors in April 2007 Gul failed to get the required 2/3rd votes in the first round. The opposition RPP with its one third of the seats , refused to enter the Parliament , thus 'even the quorum was not established' .Later it filed with the Constitutional Court that in the absence of quorum of 367 ,the proceedings were illegal and be declared invalid.
Before Gul's nomination, there was talk that Erdogan, taciturn, hard and conservative politician would offer himself for the presidency but there were vehement protests by the secular establishment against his occupying the highest post for 7 years, once held by Kemal Ataturk, who fashioned the secular republic in 1923 from the ashes of the Ottoman empire. Hence Gul’s nomination.
Apparently, it was a coordinated maneuver by the secular establishment and the Chief of General Staff (CGS) issued the statement that "It should not be forgotten that the Turkish armed forces is one of the sides in this debate and the absolute defender of secularism." It added, "When necessary, they will display its stance and attitudes very clearly. No one should doubt that."
The AKP government rebuked the military; it was "unthinkable" for the institution (military) to challenge its political leaders in a democracy. "It is out of the question to withdraw my candidacy," Gul insisted on 29 April.
The armed forces, which under Ataturk built up a secular unitary state are self styled custodians of Kemalism including secularism. The word used for secular is laic (la din; anti-religion), more Jacobin than secular. During a visit to Ankara in mid 1990s , an Indian state minister for external affairs proudly claimed that as a secular state the government provided subsidy to Muslims going on Hajj .The Turkish minister for foreign affairs , with his chest held high countered ,”We discourage them from doing Hajj .“ Things since then have changed.
There are three centers of power in Turkey; the President, the Prime Minister and Chief of General Staff. With two going over to the Islamists, the secular establishment is really worried. There has been a fascinating struggle between secularists and those trying to inject Islam as a cultural, social or spiritual input in the political and daily life of Turkey which is 99% Muslim.
The Turkish president is no figure head .He has the power to veto legislation , appoint judges , university rectors and other posts. The last secular President Ahmet Sezer, used his powers to check and restrain the AKP government.Many observers fear that the strict separation of state and religion would be eroded and Islam would creep further into all fields of life since the control of Presidency gives AKP a free hand to implement Islamist policies. The secular establishment and citizens still suspect AKP of harboring a secret Islamic agenda like National Salvation Front in 1992 in Algeria which had almost won but was banned .( US led West said nothing then) .
AKP has attempted to criminalize adultery, restrict alcohol sales and lift a ban on Islamic headscarves in public places. It even tried to intervene in the autonomy of the military, which expels suspected Islamist officers each year.
The Turkish press was unanimous in calling on the Government and the army to resolve their differences democratically with early elections as the only way out. The armed forces have intervened twice directly; in 1961 and 1980 and twice changed regimes ; in 1971 and 1997. But after cleaning up the mess created by the politicians and getting a new constitution in place, the self-styled custodians of Kemal Ataturk's legacy of secularism, as usual, returned to the barracks. The judiciary has regularly closed religious and extremist political parties and debarred its politicians.
Gul elected President
AKP then went in for early elections on July 22nd and won 47% votes but not 2/3rd majority. Gul was renominated for the post. In the first two rounds on August 20th and 24th, Gul came out well ahead of the other two candidates, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu of the Nationalist Action Party and Huseyin Icli from the Democratic Left Party, but failed to gain the required two-thirds majority . He was elected president in the third ballot on August 28th with the support of 339 of the lawmakers in the 550-seat assembly-- well above the 276 votes he needed to get in that round of voting.
In his inauguration speech Gul again sought to dispel secularist opponents' fears that he and the AKP have a secret Islamist agenda.
"The Turkish Republic is a democratic, secular, social state, governed by the rule of law," he said. "I will always be determined and resolved to advocate, without discrimination, each of these principles and to further strengthen them at every opportunity."Compared to Erdogan , Gul's elevation was palatable to Turkey's secular establishment. Deniz Baykal, leader of opposition RPP (established by Ataturk himself) acquiesced. He said "Gul has a chance to bring peace and stability," and added, "But, if he falls under dominion of a person and acts in AK Party partisanship both Turkey and himself would come to harm." Because of Guls' strong stand against activities of PKK (Turkish Marxist party) guerillas and on north Iraq even the Pashas aka generals also acquiesced. The business community welcomed Gul’s election .
Most of Turkey's Presidents have been military officers beginning with Ataturk, who commanded the war of independence against the Greeks and the victorious allied troops of occupation from Great Britain , France and Italy ,till his death in 1938 from the inception of the republic in 1923. The four civilians to occupy the post were Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a former head of the Supreme Court, elected in 2000 , Demiral 1993-2000 , Ozal 1989 -93 and Celal Bayar, who was President in 1950-61 and was overthrown by the military. Prime minister Adnan Menderes and his two other colleagues were hanged.
A fascinating struggle continues between secularists and those trying to inject Islam as a cultural, social or spiritual input in the political and daily life of Turkey which is 99% Muslim.
The importance of fights over Islamic symbols which can be used as a wedge in a society cannot be under estimated. And then during Erbakan's tenures and since 2002 posts in bureaucracy are going to party faithfuls or sympathizers .The concept of neutral bureaucracy is not strong in Turkey. Senior civil servants resign temporarily to fight elections and if defeated can get back to their old jobs . .
Rise of Islamists in Turkish Republic
It was Erbakan who founded the very first Islamist National Order party (NOP) in 1969, when prime minister Suleyman Demirel, his class fellow in Istanbul's Engineering school, refused him an Assembly slot. When NOP was closed in 1971 after the regime change, Erbakan established National Salvation party (NSP) and was twice deputy prime minister in 1970s coalition governments. After the 1980 takeover, the military banned all parties. Later when restrictions were removed Erbakan established the Welfare party, in which Abdullah Gul and Erdogan were prominent young new comers.
Erdogan was elected Mayor of Istanbul in 1995 and was a great success. In the 1996 coalition headed by Erbakan, Gul became a State Minister .In 1997 the military forced Erbakan to resign for not curbing Muslim fundamentalism. Later Erbakan's party was closed and he was banned from political activity.
Erdogan's jail experience was traumatic and a turning point. He and others like Gul saw the futility of fighting against the secular establishment on an Islamic agenda. In 2001 they established AKP.
Turkey's abiding Byzantine heritage;
Under the shadows of Istanbul 's slim minarets piercing its skyline lie monuments and ruins from Turkey's millennium and half-long Roman and Byzantine past. It was only in 1453 , that Constantinople, the Byzantine capital founded in 4th century AD by Emperor Constantine was transformed into the new Ottoman Capital Istanbul, by adding minarets to the magnificent 6th century St. Sophia Church .But the Ottoman architects could not get away from its conceptual construct even for their mosques.
Crucible of over 40 civilizations , Turkey , known as Anatolia and Asia Minor in history ,has more Greek sites than Greece and more Roman monuments than Italy. Cradle of early Christianity with the churches of revelation, Chalcedon, Nicomedea, Nicea , Turkish soil was the playground of Byzantine power and glory. With perhaps only 15% inhabitants of Turkic origin from central Asia , buried deep lies in Turkish psyche a more persistent tradition of Byzantine intrigue which seeps up from time to time , more so during Presidential elections so akin to choosing Popes, Patriarchs and Archbishops.
At the same time the simple Central Asian nomad conquerors of the Byzantine Empire , moving from east to west named villages, forts, mountains, rivers and seas ; white, black , green or red . Leaders like Demirel would describe a dangerous political crisis as passing through a narrow pass ( like Turcoman tribes and their herds ) .Or another leaders Mesut Yillmaz might use the phrase 'I have taken out my sword to fight 'a political battle ‘.Their sibling like political rivalries are more akin to tribal vendettas .The Republican Constitution and the electoral system endows political party chairmen with excessive arbitrary powers, so many group leaders behave like powerful tribal chiefs , branching off with their flocks and clans or persisting with their rigid positions instead of democratic give and take .But under pressure , the deeply engrained but dormant Byzantine proclivities are not far from the surface .
I remember well April 1973 ,when after many rounds the parliament did not elect a President , a frustrated columnist in Milliyet wrote that he might as well study Byzantine history to comprehend what was going on .
Following the 1971 memorandum by the Turkish military , which had forced prime minister Demirel to resign ,a national Government under the military's shadow was in place to conduct the 1973 Presidential elections .The pugnacious and ambitious Gen Faruk Gurler , a major force behind the memorandum , first made Chief of General Staff (CGS) Gen Tamac hand over a day before the due date and took over as the new CGS . He then resigned and presented himself as the Military's candidate to replace President Cevdet Sunay, also a former CGS.
Demirel and Bulent Ecevit , leaders of the 2 major political formations along with other politicians , in spite of the Military brass occupying the parliament galleries ,gave a stunning display of Byzantine intrigue at its best , with the Parliament going through the motions of voting round after another round .Inconclusively. The politicians tired out the now unsure and somewhat divided Military in a virtuoso performance, which would have made their Byzantine ancestors proud . Finally, a compromise was reached on a retired and innocuous Naval Commander Fahri Koruturk , who was installed the new President. A rejected and dejected Gurler died a few years later, forgotten and unsung.
At the end of bloody 1970s during which intra- religious , intra -ethnic and left right violence left tens of thousands dead in Turkey, leaving its polity scarred and divided , in April 1980 President Koruturk's term ended , but Demirel and Ecevit would not agree on a candidate . For five months hundreds of rounds of voting were conducted in the Parliament , without any result .This was a display of clannish obstinacy and total abdication of political responsibility .
Gen Kenan Evren then took over in September 1980 much to everyone's relief , banned political parties and debarred political leaders. As a measure of abundant caution , the 1983 Constitution prepared under the military regime provided dissolution of the Parliament if it fails to elect a new President after four rounds . Gen. Evren stayed head of state until 1989. In 1992 , on my return to Ankara when I lauded some politicians for their defiance of the military in 1973,they complained that , yes , but the military had handled them roughly by jailing them in 1980.
It is as if the custodians of Ataturk's secular legacy , merit based Armed Forces since the days of Janissaries , modernized by the French and the Germans during late Ottoman era and since 1950s as part of NATO, are trying to guide Turkish society towards modernity and western contemporary values, a polity with tribal overlay over a Byzantine past and nature , from chaos and obduracy to conformity and order. Even by changing the Constitutions , thrice in the last 40 years ; a liberal 1961 Constitution was replaced in 1983 by one restricting freedoms .
The simmering tensions in Turkish polity
Scarf, Turban and the Veil
After Gul’s election the first problem arose with his wife, Hayrunisa, who insisted like other AKP wives to wear a head scarf or turban. Ottoman and Islamic dresses, including head scarves, have been forbidden in public places since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey by Kemal Ataturk in 1923. Ataturk abolished the caliphate, closed religious seminaries, converted the Mosque Aaya Sofya into a museum, banned Islamic dress, including the Turkish fez, veil or hijab, including the head scarf. Many an Islamist women has lost her job or place in university, and some women their seats in parliament, for defying this regulation.
Not only secularists vehemently oppose the idea of this Islamic attire in the presidential palace in Cankaya, it is legally banned in public places. On this point Gul had said, "Everyone should pay respect to this choice. Turkey is a democratic, secular and social law state. In democracy individuals have fundamental rights and freedoms. If you approach the issue from this viewpoint, you'll see that most of the problems faced in Turkey is solved."
How ever tensions had started building up between Turkey's secular elite, and the AKP ever since the latter's electoral triumph in end 2002 and continue to boil up from time to time. To begin with the Pashas were clearly unhappy with the election results. After waiting for some time, they declared, "We will continue to protect the republic against any threat, particularly the fundamentalist and separatist [Kurdish] ones."
In April 2003 president Sezer, and the top military brass led by CGS General Hilmi Ozkok, refused to attend a reception at parliament house hosted by the speaker, Bulent Arinc of the AKP, to mark National Sovereignty and Children's Day, as hostess Munnever Arinc planned to wear a Muslim head scarf. The opposition, left of the center People's Republican Party (RPP), also boycotted the reception. A last-minute announcement that Mrs Arinc would not attend the reception came too late.
In June 2004 a seven-judge panel of the European Court of Human Rights ruled against a petition by a Turkish medical student who was banned in 1998 from wearing a head scarf by Istanbul University. The student had claimed that the ban during classes violated her rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion under the European Convention on Human Rights. The court found that the rules in medical classes were "necessary", primarily for hygienic reasons, and the students "were required to comply with the rules on dress". It "found no violation" under the convention, adding schools were entitled to set dress codes as long as they were fair. However, in a 46-page report, Human Rights Watch said the ban "inhibits academic freedom", adding the government exercised too much control over schools.( HRW, a western outfit ought to concentrate on violation of human and other rights by USA and UK)
In Turkey women are regularly killed by near relatives in so called honor killings, ie because of illicit relationships or infraction of social codes. The AKP government was thinking of making adultery a crime in law, which raised heckles all around the country and would likely jeopardize the Turkey's entry into the EU, now a charade ,so the plan was shelved.
Although the custom of covering women with head scarves is now generally associated with Islamic societies, the practice predates Islamic culture by many millennia. Veiling and seclusion were marks of prestige and status symbols in the Assyrian, Greco-Roman and Byzantine empires, as well as in Sasanian Iran. The Muslim Umayyads copied it from the Byzantines in Damascus, which they took over lock stock and barrel. According to one tradition, the Prophet Mohammad's wife Aisha did not veil her face. Generally, there was greater freedom for women among nomadic Arabs, Turks and Mongols before Islam.
But in recent history, the veil or hijab has been used to make political statements, in Muslim countries like Algeria,Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey, and where Muslims are in a minority, as in France today. Brothers in Turkey and France shave sisters’ head to coerce into wearing a scarf and organizations and individuals in Saudi Arabia etc send money for those who wear a veil, Chador or scarves .There is many times pure and simple coercion. It is far from voluntary.
On Indian corporate channels debates are conducted on the veil in France by the usual suspects ,the gliterattis, disputatis and mostly ignorantis , aka , socialites ,actors , info-challenged media hacks and lawyer spokesmen of the political parties , who would not even spend five minutes to even google veils on the internet . They only expose their ignorance and misinform people.
See Lifting the veil in France, and Turkey 16 September, 2004
By K Gajendra Singh http://www.atimes.com/atimes/
Battle joined for and against the scarf
AKP leadership , led by Erdogan in spite of strong apposition form the secular elite went ahead and with control of the parliament amended the Constitution and lifted the ban on scarves in February 2008. The AKP government claimed the lifting the ban in the name of human rights and civil liberties.
"Our main aim is to end the discrimination experienced by a section of society just because of their personal beliefs," said AKP parliamentarian Sadullah Ergin .Because of the ban, many covered women go abroad to study. This included the daughters of prime minister Erdogan who went to a US university. To overcome the law many women resort to wearing wigs over their head scarves in public places.
It is true that 60% of Turks would prefer ban on scarf lifted.
But it is a specious argument. France , a fiercely secular state also has ban on veils and other religious symbols .AKP government gives little attention to the discriminations against Alevis , almost 10 % of the population .Believers in a Shia form and more cosmopolitan ; there is no sex segregation in their places of worship , which are different from the Sunni mosques .Use of wine is permitted .Ironically most of the Alevis are from central Asia , who founded the Ottoman empire , but they are now badly treated and massacred from time to time .They vote for left of centre parties and seek protection from the military .
Lifting of ban annulledOn 5 June 2008, Turkey's Constitutional Court annulled the parliament's proposed amendment to lift the headscarf ban, ruling that removing the ban was against the founding principles of the constitution. The highest court's decision to uphold the headscarf ban cannot be appealed.
It may have marked a historical moment in the ongoing struggle between religion and secularism in a predominantly Muslim country.But concerns remain in Turkey that the government's zeal for lifting the ban could undermine other reforms, particularly those relating to democratization and the country's ongoing European Union membership bid.
AKP escapes being closed by one vote by Turkey’s Constitutional Court
On July 30, 2008 ,Turkey’s Constitutional Court rejected the chief prosecutor’s demand to close the ruling AKP and ban prime minister Erdogan, president Abdullah Gul and 70 other leading AKP members from political activity for a period of five years. But the Court ruled that the party had become “a focal point for anti-secular activity” and recommended the party be denied half the financial aid it receives from the state. Ten members voted for the charge while only one voted against
Announcing the verdict the Court chairman Hasim Kilic, said 6 members of the court had voted in favor of closing the party, while the remaining four concluded that the party’s “anti-secular activities” did not deserve a ban. At least seven votes are needed to impose a ban. Kilic’s own vote against a ban of the AKP was crucial in the court’s verdict.
Kilic said, “It is not a decision to close down the party, but it is a serious warning,” emphasizing that the AKP should ponder very carefully and draw its own conclusions.
The case to ban the AKP was filed on March 14, by Turkey’s chief prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, who accused the party of “anti-secular activities” and “trying to turn the country into an Islamic state.”
In the tense atmosphere gripping Turkey the first indication of a possible compromise came from Mark Parris, former US ambassador to Ankara, who said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on July 16 that the “odds to find a way out are stronger than a month ago.” Many senior officials of the Bush administration made it clear that Washington was opposed to a ban on the AKP. Leading European Union representatives had also made clear their opposition to a ban, which would constitute a further hurdle to Turkey’s eventual admission into the EU.
More than at home and in the financial market European governments heaved a collective sigh of relief, while commentators were circumspect about the significance of the judgment .But after the tension and unease this was perhaps the least worst decision. Islamist political parties and those on the left have been banned many times in the past.
More than anything else it was the instability created around Turkey following the 2003 illegal invasion which might have weighed heavily in the Court’s deliberations, which made it stop just short of sending the internal political situation in to a vortex of uncertainty and unpredictability .
The court issued a clear warning that the ruling party should refrain from any further measures which encroach on the secular fabric of the Republic and privileges or power of the country’s long-standing secular Kemalist establishment.
But the decision is just another pause before the Islamists and the secularists eye each other for a political re-match .
London’s Economist advised the AKP to make more concessions to the Kemalist old guard and advised : “Mr Erdogan’s government should also turn more of its attention to the economy. The AKP’s record on the economy is strong, but that has been due in part to a benign world economic situation. Times are more difficult now, andTurkey, with a gaping current account deficit and rising inflation, is again looking vulnerable. More liberalization would help keep the economy on an even keel.”
The World Socialist Web Site commented.” Against this background, the rivalry between the feuding factions of the Turkish bourgeoisie could explode into new conflict at any time. President Abdullah Gul is due to appoint three new members of the Constitutional Court in two years time, as well as 21 university rectors. Even the appointment of acknowledged Islamists as new rectors would be sufficient to re-ignite political tensions and precipitate a fresh crisis.”
Commented Yusuf Kanli ,a veteran Turkish journalist “ the AKP now has to demonstrate that it indeed got the message the court issued and start moderating itself by giving up the post July 22 majority obsession, lending an ear to what the opposition says and try to understand sentiments of the secularists. Thus the AKP and the prime minister must try to soothe tensions rather than refusing to acknowledge his and the AKP`s share in the alarming level of polarization Turkey has been surfing in for some time.
“For example, the prime minister must swiftly act now to conform with the local and international court rulings regarding compulsory religious education in Turkish schools, realize the pain of non-Sunnis as well as non-Muslims because of compulsory Muslim Sunni indoctrination at our secondary schools.
“The AKP and Erdogan must understand that the Constitutional Court underlined in all clarity that the arrogant “What if turban is a political symbol” approach undermining secularist concerns and ignoring reform demands in all other areas except enhancing religious freedoms did no good to anyone.”
Power to make Fundamental changes in the Constitution -Turkey and India .
Apart from lifting the ban on the veil and other such measures , AKP’s talk of major amendments in the Constitution was the main reason for the case .Commented political analyst Andrew Arato on the crisis ;” The Constitution of 1982 has unchangeable provisions that the parliament cannot alter even with 100% of the vote having to do with the republican, secular and unitary character of the state. (Articles 1, 2,3 made unchangeable by Art. 4). Moreover the Constitutional Court is given jurisdiction to review amendments (art 148/149). Though this jurisdiction is defined as procedural, logically the Court would be correct to argue that any procedure (i.e. any majority, even 100%) that changes the unchangeable is ultravires.
“Thus if Turkish Constitutional Court judged the amendments in question unconstitutional on the bases of the unchangeable articles it would have still not have gone as far stretching its jurisdiction as the great Indian Supreme Courts did, in defense of the unwritten “basic structure”of the Indian Constitution. Admittedly, the Indian Constitution was democratically made, and there the Court could arguably defend the work of the democratic pouvoir constituant, against mere governmental organs, including the qualified parliamentary majority. In Turkeythe Constitution was an authoritarian product, and it may seem paradoxical to defend its unchangeable provisions against democratically elected parliaments.” ( This is strictly not true .The 1982 Constitution was approved in a referendum )
The Republican state was created by a secular military after a long war of independence under Kemal Ataturk giving the nation its secular Constitution , so the Kemalist establishment is a major stakeholder .It would not allow what could have happened in Algeria ,if the 2nd round of elections with assured victory to Islamic Salvation Front had been completed in Algeria in 1992 .It must be remembered that in the ‘the Book’ based polity of Islam, the lines between the Mir and the Pir ,the temporal ruler and spiritual ruler still remain blurred ,contested and changing. Look at what has happened in Pakistan , where the military has been Islamised and has killed the plant of democracy .Of course it suits Anglo Americans , but in Turkey the secular establishment of Judiciary, military , academician and others would not like the nation to be taken back to the religious Ottoman era .
‘Ergenekon’ mystery and trials
On July 15, 2008 Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin submitted the indictment against the Ergenekon to Turkey's top criminal court. In a 2,455-page indictment he accused 86 suspects, 48 in custody, including retired—and even active—members of the armed forces, as well as academics, journalists, political activists, and organized crime figures. Those arrested included retired generals Hursit Tolon and Sener Eruygur as well as the head of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce, Sinan Aygun.
The charges were: "membership in an armed terrorist group"; "aiding and abetting an armed terrorist organization"; "attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey"; "inciting people to rebel against the Republic of Turkey"; "being in possession of explosives, using them, and inciting others to commit these crimes"; "encouraging soldiers to disobey superiors"; "openly provoking hatred and hostility"; and other similar crimes.
The specific crimes cover the 2006 armed attack on the Council of State High Courthouse, where one High Court judge was killed; and a shooting and hand-grenade attack at the Istanbul office of the newspaper Cumhuriyet
The Turkish media compared the Ergenekon to Italy's Gladio "stay behind" terrorist network, and identified it as part of the "deep state" apparatus. But Prof Dr. Mustafa Acar, wrote in July 2 the Turkish pro AKP daily Zaman. Entitled " 'Ergenekon': An Opportunity for Peace Between State and People," He describes the group as the "Turkish branch of Gladio—designed as a semi-military organization in NATO," but also points to the deeper role of the Progress and Union Party, also known as the Committee of Union and Progress or CUP, which was the organization of the Young Turks in the early 1900s.
Basically it is an attempt to discredit Turkish armed forces , which had created the National Security Council (NSC) to channelise complaints and grievances from midlevel military officers. It avoided many Colonel led coups .NSC was constituted in Pakistan too on take over in 1999 by Gen Musharraf , who had spent his school years in Ankara.
Ergenekon is a mythical place located in the inaccessible valleys of the Altay mountains in Mongolia from where the Turish people originated .In one version of the myth a proto-historic Turkish tribe was ambushed and decimated with the exception of a single child who was nursed by a female wolf. His offsprings thrive and an iron-smith builds a huge bellow and smelters the mountain thus opening a passage out from the valley. A she-wolf Asena shows them the way out. Fascist and nationalist groups in Turkey call themselves Gray Wolves’Saudi ‘Green money’ for AKP’s benefit
Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute wrote an article “Green Money, Islamist Politics in Turkey” for the Middle East Quarterly of 2005. He said ;
“A decade ago, Turks discussed the influence of the "deep state," the shadowy network of generals, intelligence officials, and—among conspiracy theorists—organized crime bosses. Today, in private conversations in teahouses and in the National Assembly, many Turkish officials discuss green money and AKP financial opacity as the new threat. Money buys the short-term popularity necessary to initiate long-term changes, be they in Turkey's foreign or domestic policy. Under apparent Saudi influence, such changes will likely further erode Turkish secularism.
Is Erdoğan's party a threat to Turkish secularism, or the product of it? Does the AKP represent an Islamist Trojan horse, or the benign Islamic equivalent of Europe's numerous Christian Democrat political parties? Wonders Rubin.
If the AKP is able to translate money into power and power into money, then the main loser will be Turkish secularism. As an executive with one of Istanbul's largest firms said, "The AKP is like a cancer. You feel fine, but then one day you start coughing blood. By the time you realize there's a problem, it's too far-gone.”
AKP came to power on the strength of its image as fresh and honest party amid a sea of corrupt establishment parties, but AKP's own finances have become murky , blurring the distinction between business and politics. Turkish domestic and foreign policy is influenced by the influx of what is called Yesil Sermaye, "green money," from wealthy Islamist businessmen and Middle Eastern states.
Some Turkish professional bureaucrats, businessmen, journalists, and even politicians raised the question of Saudi money flowing into AKP coffers through green money business intermediaries. "The problem is Saudi Arabia. If you solve that, then our problem is solved," one independent parliamentarian told Rubin A former member of the AKP concurred: "Before the 2002 election, there were rumors that an AKP victory would lead to an infusion of $10-$20 billion, mostly from Saudi Arabia. It looks like the rumors came true."
While Turkish journalists and officials acknowledge that Saudi investment in Turkey and Turkish politics has increased since 2002, the exact nature of the investment is murky and circumstantial. Prior to the AKP's 2002 election victory, Abdullah Gül criticized state scrutiny of the Islamic enterprises, accusing the secular government of acting unfairly. Between 1983 and 1991, Gül worked as a specialist at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Islamic banks—and especially those sponsored by Saudi Arabia—regularly channel money to Islamist enterprises. On November 9, 2004, Deniz Baykal, leader of the parliamentary opposition Republican People's Party, accused the AKP of trying to create a religious-based economy. It is also affecting Turkey’s foreign policy.
Riyadh wants to build up Turkey as a powerful Sunni state to counter Iran’s influence , but Ankara has followed a rational policy so far .
While Erdoğan has been silent on the issue, in August 2001, Rahmi Koç, chairman of Koç Holding, Turkey's largest and oldest conglomerate commented on CNN Türk that Erdoğan has a US$1 billion fortune and asked the source of his wealth. Some Turkish economists suggest that after 11/9 Saudi and other Persian Gulf citizens' liquidated their U.S. holdings Some bankers estimate that individual Saudi investors withdrew between $100 and $200 billion. One Turkish economist suggested that, even if Saudi citizens moved $20 billion to France, $10 billion to Lebanon, and $6 billion to Switzerland, there would still be ample funds left to invest unofficially in Turkey. The money may support legitimate businesses. But, if both the investor and business fail to declare it, then such funds might remain immune to taxation and regulation. Various estimated of the green money infusion into the Turkish economy is between $6 billion and $12 billon.
Much of the money enters Turkey "in suitcases" with couriers and remains in the unofficial economy. Even when deposited, banks ask no questions about the origins of the cash. "Money laundering is one of the worst aspects of Turkish politics," a former state planning official said. Political parties across the political spectrum have illegal slush fund .Under the AKP, the unofficial economy has grown exponentially.
Official Turkish statistics provide some clue as to the scope of the problem. Between 2002 and 2003, the summary balance of payments for net error and omission category—basically unexplained income—increased from $149 million to almost $4 billion. This is an eighty-year record error. In the first six months of 2004, an additional $1.3 billion entered the system, its origins unaccounted. According to Kesici, an economist there could be as much as a $2 billion overestimation in tourism revenue.
Media like elsewhere has been corporatised . So while Turkey has a vibrant press and a number of national papers, there has been a tremendous consolidation of ownership to just a few companies. The Doğan Group, for example, owns not only well-known dailies likeHürriyet and Milliyet but also Radikal, Posta, and the Turkish Daily News among others. Together these capture perhaps 50 percent of total Turkish daily circulation. In addition, Doğan Group television stations like CNN Türk and Kanal D have perhaps a 20 percent market share. The problem is not that Doğan companies always tow the party line. Many Turkish journalists produce hard-hitting analysis. But a number of journalists complain of self-censorship. The same media barons who own a large portion of the press have branched into other sectors where they are more dependent on government largesse. "Everyone is vulnerable—economically and politically—if they oppose the government," a businessman explained. It is foolhardy to annoy the government. The Uzan group which opposed AKP was decimated.
K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author Efirstname.lastname@example.org