ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's decision yesterday to step down is not expected to hamper bilateral relations with Turkey, despite fears over the emergence of internal chaos and extremism in the post-Musharraf era.
The embattled leader faced impeachment charges and was under mounting pressure from the opposition to resign.
�Turkish-Pakistani relations are so unique that they cannot be compared with any country,� Turkish Ambassador to Islamabad Engin Soysal told the Turkish Daily News. �We hope that stability, welfare and unity will prevail in Pakistan in the upcoming period. Turkey will always support Pakistan.�
Musharraf, a political figure close to Turkey, dominated Pakistan for years after seizing power in a 1999 military coup, ousting then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. During his reign, Pakistan has become a strategic U.S. ally in the fight on terror.
�I see the resignation as a timely and virtuous act on the part of Mr. Musharraf; otherwise Pakistan was going to plunge into chaos,� İnal Batu, Turkey's ambassador to Islamabad from 1984 to 1987, told the TDN.
Pakistan occupies a strategic position between southern Asia and the Middle East, bordering India, China and Afghanistan. Diplomatic sources say Pakistan's stability and its ongoing fight against terror and extremism are very important for Turkey and the world, suggesting challenges in the new era be tackled through reconciliation between all political actors.
�The biggest fear for Pakistan is the collapse of the system and the country turning into Afghanistan,� said Sedat Laçiner, president of the International Strategic Research Organization, or USAK.
�If Pakistan is not supported by the United States in the upcoming period, a frenzy of extremism and terrorism is bound to escalate,� Laçiner said. �Pakistan is not like Afghanistan and the likelihood of rising extremism in Pakistan will undoubtedly affect the entire Muslim world.�
Like Afghanistan, Pakistan is combating the Taliban along the two countries' volatile border.
�I hope that a secular, democratic regime will prevail in Pakistan. An al Qaeda-type dominance in the country would be a nightmare for the world,� said Batu, adding that the world capitals from Washington to Moscow were carefully watching the developments in Pakistan.
It is not clear now whether Musharraf will stay in Pakistan. U.K. daily the Guardian earlier reported that the leader might flee to Turkey, where he spent his childhood. Laçiner said even if the outgoing leader stayed in Turkey that would not negatively affect bilateral ties.
�All political actors in Pakistan, including the opposition, listen to what Turkey says,� said Laçiner, who visited the country recently. �Turkey has a voice in Pakistan.�
Turkish-Pakistani relations are historically rooted. Turkey established diplomatic relations with Pakistan soon after the latter declared independence in 1947.
�Turkey does not look to Pakistan as a foreign country because Turkish-Pakistani ties are not periodic but traditional,� said Laçiner. �Pakistan has no other partner, just like Turkey.�
Turkey and Pakistan are both predominantly Muslim states. Pakistan's founding leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, admired modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and wanted to develop Pakistan on the basis of the Turkish model of modernism and secularism.
Jinnah is honored as a great leader in Turkey as well, and a major road in the Turkish capital, Cinnah Street, is named after Pakistan's legendary leader. The two countries also have growing military ties. When a major earthquake hit Pakistan in 2005, claiming the lives of 20,000 people, Turkey was one of the first countries to rush to help the victims.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül paid a landmark visit to Pakistan in December 2007, the first by any foreign leader since the country was isolated internationally by Musharraf's imposition of a state of emergency on Nov. 3. Gül met with all political groups in Pakistan, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated later that month.