Leadership Matters by Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party has once again won a new five-year term after securing absolute victory in the Turkish presidential elections.

Initially due on November 3, 2019, President Erdogan announced to hold the election earlier three months ago. The Turkish media reported that Erdogan succeeded by securing nearly 53 percent of popular votes. For the first time, the presidential and parliamentary elections were held together. The voter turnout was reportedly around 87 percent. On behalf of Pakistanis, I would like to congratulate the Turkish people for the victory.

According to recent electoral reforms, the post of prime minister has been abolished. The office of the president will serve as both the country’s head of the state and government. Similarly, a vice presidency is being introduced, whereas the president has been empowered to take decisions about selecting and removing vice presidents, ministers and other high-level state officials.

Erdogan started his political career by contesting local body elections held in March 1994. He was elected as the mayor of Istanbul. At that time, the city faced a plethora of serious problems such as water shortage, traffic jams, air pollution and heaps of garbage strewn across the city. Erdogan took various initiatives to tackle all kinds of challenges. Due to his tireless efforts, Istanbul was transformed into one of the most beautiful cities of the world. He also initiated the first roundtable conference of mayors wherein mayors from various global cities shared their valuable experiences. Ironically, he was imprisoned and suspended from the mayor’s office owing to a speech.

Latter, Erdogan emerged as an influential national leader of the Turkish political arena. Elected as prime minister in 2003 and ruling for almost 15 years before being elected as the president in 2014, Erdogan succeeded in strengthening Turkey’s economy. The Turkish government made investing in education, healthcare and infrastructure their top priorities. Erdogan also managed to successfully free Turkey from the IMF.

Whether it is the Palestinian issue or the Rohingya crisis, Erdogan’s foreign policy revolves around supporting the oppressed. The Turkish president believes that: “If we, as a nation and country, want to achieve our goals, we first need a powerful and efficient system of government, in which who has the power and the responsibility is well-defined.” He is of the view that political instability results in socio-economic problems.

The recent Turkish elections have brought Turkey in the same limelight that it was in exactly a hundred years ago. At that time, the Ottoman Empire was facing a tough time by nationalist, secular and foreign elements. Interestingly, the Khilafat Movement was started in British India in support of Turkey. The movement brought prominent Hindu and Muslim leaders closer to enhance cooperation for the freedom struggle. Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, Maulana Shaukat Ali, Allama Iqbal, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Mahatama Gandhi were some political leaders who mobilised masses in support the Ottoman caliphate – which ruled over much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. The Khilafat Movement later inspired people across the Subcontinent to achieve freedom from the British.

Pakistan established diplomatic relations with Turkey soon after its Independence and their bilateral relations became increasingly strong. The Turkish government strongly supports the Pakistani stance on Kashmir. The name of our national language ‘Urdu’ is itself a Turkish word, a reflection of the two region’s historical cultural ties. Both the countries have many roads, parks and public places named after each other’s national leaders. The Attaturk Avenue in Islamabad and Jinnah Road in Ankara, are both a reminder of how close the two countries are. The Turkish people love treating all Pakistanis as brothers.

Both the countries used to face similar challenges. However, Turkey was lucky enough to have a sincere, honest and bold leadership in the form of Tayyip Erdogan. His recent victory determines his firm commitment and passion to serve Turkey. A few years ago, when some anti-democracy elements tried to topple his government, the Turkish people came out on the streets in support of their beloved charismatic leader.

As politicians, we need to learn many lessons from the Turkish leader. First, our political struggle must have some noble purpose of serving mankind. There may be a number of challenges, but a real politician overcomes all crises with the support of the people. To achieve our targets, we may review our strategy but there should be no compromise on principles and ideologies.

This month, we are also holding national elections in Pakistan. I believe that the political developments in Turkey will serve as an eye-opener for all of us. We have to understand the importance of vote for selecting the right leadership. If our brotherly country Turkey can get rid of IMF loans, then why can’t Pakistan? The transformation of Pakistan into a truly sovereign country depends on how wisely we choose our leadership through the ballot.

The writer is patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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