By M Zeb KhanJuly 23, 2016Print : Opinion
The cheers of jubilant crowds across Turkey have reverberated here in Pakistan. The Turkish republic was saved from falling apart by not falling once again into the hands of military dictators.
The coup failed because it was ill-conceived and poorly executed. It also lacked institutional backing and, most importantly, it ran against the public mood and aspirations at a time when Turkey is faced with many challenges. Cheers apart, one should look into the relevance of the failed coup d’état for Pakistan.
In Pakistan, the success of military coups is generally perceived as a foregone conclusion. People generally do not take to the streets to resist the takeover because they believe that to be futile. In other words, people do not really know the strength of their will and voice.
The failed coup in Turkey has proved that every adventure does not necessarily succeed. In Turkey, people responded to the call of their leader and stood firm in front of bullets and tanks. Eventually, the coup plotters were left with no option except forcing them to either flee or surrender to unarmed people in the streets.
Social media played a crucial role. The power of the man in the street flows from growing awareness about what governments can and should do in modern times. It provides instant information about events affecting one’s life in multiple forms.
The smartphone, though small in size, has huge social impact. It is now impossible for governments or for that matter any entity to fool people by feeding them selective information through traditional media. Besides awareness, social media helps people coordinate their actions and organise their efforts in real time.
In the context of military coups, people resort to social media for how to react to the extraordinary situation. Taking control of government TV and radio stations no longer helps in spreading fear and rumours to sustain the coup.
Due to increased awareness and global interconnectedness, people in the Muslim world have also started trusting the democratic dispensation. Democracy, despite some inherent flaws, survives and flourishes due to self-correcting mechanisms built into it. It is founded on the principles of distributive power and human equality. Dictatorship and monarchy, on the other hand, are viewed as anachronic and symbols of backwardness and oppression.
It is, however, a mistaken belief to equate democracy to holding elections at regular intervals. Democracy in its true spirit promotes accountability, transparency, rule of law, and responsiveness to public aspirations. If implemented in its totality, it leads to institutional stability, social cohesion, and prosperity.
Unfortunately, democracy in Pakistan is not much different from dynastic rule. It has roots in feudalism rather than the masses and revolves around individuals rather than ideologies or manifestos.
Our rulers should not delude themselves into thinking that people in Pakistan would ever risk their lives for a system of governance that is not for them but for a few families in the form of different political parties. People in Turkey came out to the streets not to defend an individual but a system which has given them hope and a decent living for over a decade.
Let us hope that our leaders learn a lesson from the failed coup in Turkey and start connecting with the people by serving them sincerely and honestly. Hollow slogans and false promises will not inspire people to do extraordinary things at the time of crisis.
There are other challenges, besides martial law, that require national unity and concerted efforts. The nation, if kept under the grinding mill for long will certainly look for an alternative system of governance.
The writer teaches at the Sarhad University.