When Ataturk came visiting…

…and another stretched analogy

How easy it is to please those Indian op-ed writers. Saeed Naqvi, an Indian newspaper columnist, compares Musharraf to Ataturk.

Sensible Pakistan policy managed by Vajpayee and Brajesh Mishra, accelerated by Manmohan Singh and Natwar Singh, all stand out in bold relief. But it was courageous statesmanship by Musharraf which has opened up extraordinary possibilities on the subcontinent. There is, indeed, a tide in the affairs of men, and this is it for the region.

The principal outcome of the World War I was the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire. From the rump of this empire, Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Ataturk) shaped a proud nation with a clear purpose and direction, its shattered self-esteem restored. Historical circumstances bestowed on him absolute authority. He altered the social texture of his nation, even setting aside shariah law.

If Musharraf can consolidate what he has embarked on, he may well be compared favourably with Ataturk. Indeed, Ataturk transformed his secularism into anti-religious dogma. What Musharraf is attempting is something mellower, a moderation of Islamic practice, discouraging its use for extremist politics. Friendship with India is an enabling plank in this direction. The strategy weakens extremists on all sides of the equation — India, Pakistan, Kashmir. [IE]

Ataturk’s greatest triumph was the modernisation of his own society; and he did this not by caving in to the demands of religious extremists and obscurantists, but by prevailing over them. Gen Musharraf has done no such thing — it was under his rule that Islamic fundamentalists became a political force. Quite unlike Ataturk, Musharraf has backed down on every single issue when confronted by the Islamists — from the education system, to protecting women’s rights, to the blasphemy laws, to madrassa reform (remember that?) to that famous ‘religion column’ on the Pakistani passport. Just before he came to visit India, for all his Kemalist pretensions, Musharraf was not even able to ensure that fully-covered women athletes could participate in a marathon.

If Ataturk were alive today, he’d probably choke on his doner kebabs.

7 thoughts on “When Ataturk came visiting…”

  1. I would rather compare the General to President Milosevic of former Yugoslavia who presided over the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 90s.

    In the 90s’ the Soviet Union broke up, Germany was reunited and Czechoslovakia split up and Yugoslavia, which was an artificial entity created after WW2 broke up, being swept by the tide of events in the neighbourhood and internally.

    Forward to the new millenium, we have Afghanistan and Iraq reconfigured, and Iran waiting in the wings and a series of flower revolutions in Central Asia. Pakistan is an artificial entity created after WW2 and a lot of stress and strain are coming into their own in Pakistan.

    At this time, the General has to tread on a fine wire, manage internal political strife, a non-representative Govt, widespread corruption and Islamization, multiple assasination attempts, and sectarian riots, coupled with economic doldrums. The turning point could well be if and when the miltary and the ISI stop their support.

    The General also shares planning genocide (in the Northern Areas) as a common trait with the ex-strongman, Milosevic.

    In view of this, I would like to state that the analogy is closer to Milosevic than Ataturk.

  2. Ataturk won a big battle against western forces and gained respect of Turks before embarking on ambitious redesign of his society! Musharraf by contrast launched war against India and lost!

  3. Attaturk was a fascist who attacked religion gratuitously, far beyond what would have been required to establish the rule of law, but just enough to have created a false model for Muslim modernisation.

    Give Muslims the vote, and give them a clean (not corrupt) polity in which to excercise their franchise.

    I hope that peace throughout the Indian subcontinent will allow Pakistan to devote resources to cleaning the place up.Once gun-running, drug traficking are clamped down on (abolition is not possible), politics can be decoupled from such corruption.

    One inspiration from Turkey would be useful for Pakistan. No former politician should be allowed to run for office for at least 10 years.

  4. David,

    I hope that peace throughout the Indian subcontinent will allow Pakistan to devote resources to cleaning the place up.Once gun-running, drug traficking are clamped down on (abolition is not possible), politics can be decoupled from such corruption.

    If by this, you mean that it is the lack of peace that has got Pakistan into the mess it finds itself in, then you are seriously mistaken. The lack of peace in the subcontinent is an external manifestation of Pakistan’s own problems. Gun-running and drug-trafficking are smaller concerns in Pakistani politics — it is the Army’s predisposition to snatch power and the consequent institutional interests that are the main problems.

  5. I visit your blog on a daily basis, however I rarely comment. I really enjoy the topics, especially on topics relating to economics. Perhaps the only reccomendation I have is that you should use this blog to change opinions rather than give yours. I seem to agree with your opinion 99% of the time, and I know this is your site and you made it so you can tell the world what you think but you can be much more tactful about it rather then to just vent your opinion. This excerpt I believe is an exception to the norm I see on this site. You balance the musharaf bashing with praise for another muslim leader. The average muslim or non-indian, were they to stumble onto this site and read this excerpt, wouldn’t just think of you as a pissed off Indian.

    Once agian you seem like smart and much more articulate than I am… you can use this blog to let people know your opinion or perhaps use it to change some…whatever you decide I’ll keep reading though cuz I think musharaf is a dirty c**t too 😉

  6. Jay,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think there is much food for thought in what you’ve said, especially when it comes to convincing people to change their opinions. That is a tall order — there seems to be a general trend for people to read/view the media that agrees with their opinions and prejudices. Media too are pandering to their core audience.

    But if by ‘tactful’ you mean politically correct, then I am very reluctant to agree. Criticism of Pervez Musharraf is not because he is a Muslim. Anything but that. Therefore I do not see a need to balance criticism of Musharraf with praise for another Muslim leader. Similarly criticism of Manmohan Singh, Natwar Singh, Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Colin Powell, George Bush, Ariel Sharon, Hu Jintao or even the Dalai Lama (some of the folks who have been criticised) has nothing to do with their religions. But Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic fanatics have been criticised because of their fanaticism, rather than their religion.

    I think the average Muslim or non-Indian will benefit more from an accurate perception of my opinion rather than a politically correct one.

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