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Turkey-Pakistan Parallels…Or Not

Could Turkey’s blossoming as an Islamic entrepreneurial society be a model for troubled Pakistan? Or have been?

The thought is raised in a recent posting by Elmira Bayrasli of New York, who promotes microcapitalism. I got to thinking about this when she asked Pervez Musharraf, at his appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations this week, about his deep study of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. What had that taught him about the role of Pakistan’s military–which Musharraf headed before he opted also to head the state? In Turkey as well, the military has had a mixed history but these days remains the guardians of Ataturk’s secular state even as a maturing democracy favors a more Muslim cast.

Musharraf’s reply, which Bayrasli told me later she found “completely disingenuous,” was that “change can’t be imposed on a society over time.” He suggested–at least as I heard him– that creeping (or leaping) Islamicization of Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan is undoing much of what Ataturk attempted to establish.

The story is yet to play out in Turkey. Erdogan and elements of the military have had brushes, and the prime minister is alleged to be intimidating other opponents from the old establishment, including the Dogan media family. But the economy is perking along, and democracy is still the seeming order of business. Which, if Musharraf patterned Pakistan’s military after Turkey’s, as was Bayrasli’s premise, ought to suggest a better outcome for Pakistan. Unless, of course, General Musharraf didn’t live up to that standard. Or, as he prefers to see it, Pakistan has been the ongoing victim of various other malefactors.

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