In the course of two days President Erdogan of Turkey visited Pakistan on invitation of the President of Pakistan and addressed the Parliament of for yet another time. Obviously, within the Parliamentary form of government; this invitation was extended on behalf of the Prime Minister, wading through one self-created crisis after another. Such visits are planned in advance and at a first glance should not be connected to the ongoing Panama Case and planted stories in Dawn Leaks. Yet given the nature of relations between Pakistani rulers and some foreign governments, the timing of the visit leaves lingering doubts. The reason is that the two are involved in some very opaque deals in Pakistan and who knows elsewhere too. Also, very recently, President Erdogan was able to foil a military intervention. Nawaz Sharif will use this visit to send across multiple messages.

Such relations are typical of third world oligarchies and despots. They maintain such relationships to park wealth for a rainy day. The history of 70s and 80s is replete with a long list of dictators who stashed ill-gotten wealth abroad and then went into exile in countries of old buddies. Once the Swiss Banks lost their prowess at concealing black money and trails, the heavens moved to offshore businesses that operate through shell companies.

If the words of the Sharif family are to be believed, their father somehow managed to shift money from unknown sources to Dubai to put up a steel mill through a front man. This mill was somehow liquidated and the proceeds moved to Jeddah to commission another steel mill. The latest is that this mill was sold and proceeds used to buy flats in London. In another twist, the Prince of Qatar has admitted he has some knowledge that the Sharifs had invested money with them that later resulted in their ownership of properties in London. This adds another variant to the trails leading to these properties. The purpose of mentioning this is to establish linkages between oligarchies.

There are at least six countries involved in these trails. These are Pakistan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Panama and the United Kingdom. Interestingly, all these are also known to provide sanctuaries to despots, oligarchies and rulers in exile. In addition, excluding Pakistan and Panama, others provide the nexus made by USA to destabilise Middle East in Iraq and Syria in particular. To complete the jigsaw, add Israel, France and Turkey to reach the irresistible conclusion of who supports ISIS-ISIL-Daesh in Middle East and for what purpose. An Arab commentator sums up the complexity commenting:

“Iran is backing Assad. Gulf States are against Assad! Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood and Obama is against General Sissi. But Gulf States are pro Sissi; which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is pro Hamas but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood! Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood yet Hamas is against US! Gulf States are pro US. But Turkey is with Gulf States against Assad; yet Turkey is pro Muslim Brotherhood against General Sissi! And General Sissi is being backed by the Gulf States. Welcome to Middle East!”

In addition, add Turkish support to Syrian factions including some Kurds to draw a very confusing and complicating conclusion. Everyone is cooperating with everyone and everyone is against everyone. It is a grand royal rumble.

So the Turk President is no saviour of humanity and the Muslim Ummah. At the heels of the Qatari Prince, he has come to the rescue of a regime accused of corruption. He has his hands soiled in the worst Middle Eastern intrigues and the blood of his own countrymen called Kurds, seculars and followers of Gülen. He contains Iran through implied threats because he knows that inviting their hostility openly would invite ire on his borders. He is using his religious card in the rural areas of Turkey to remain in power and keep his opponents in awe. He does not hesitate to use Russia to scare NATO and USA.

His speech in Parliament aroused emotions about Pakistan’s role in the Turk Revolution that President Erdogan is actually undoing. He talked of Al Qaeda and Daesh and Gülen in stride of enemies of Islam. This happened at a time when hundreds of Turks educationists were packing their bags to move out of Pakistan within 72 hours. It was interesting to see a very meaningful and dismissive smile on the face of an important dignitary when President Erdogan asked Pakistan to join Turkey in eliminating Daesh. That’s where the story becomes suspicious.

Istanbul in terms of metro bus, taxi service and waste collection system gives the same look as Lahore. The vehicles, trucks and posters are the same. Much has been written about the metro buses of Lahore and Islamabad. Cheap, underpowered stuff built on orders from China with a Turk trade mark moving uninterrupted over concrete overhangs.

But there are other similarities between President Erdogan and Pakistan’s ruling family; Military, political opponents, civil society and Judiciary. Let us take a quick recap.

The Gülen movement was an ally of the Turkish Justice and Development Party led by President Erdogan from 2002 to as late as 2014. It was an alliance of convenience against the seculars. Together they formed three consecutive governments in 2002, 2007, and 2011. They combined to defeat the old establishment and parked judiciary and police with their men. Disagreements emerged between the AKP and the Gülen movement in 2010. In 2013 investigations in Turkey into alleged corrupt practices by several bureaucrats, ministers, mayors, and family members of the ruling AKP became public. President Erdoğan accused Gülen of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government through a judicial coup exploiting corruption investigations and seized the newspaper ‘Zaman’ and several companies that have ties with Gülen. Since December 11, 2015 the Gülen movement is classified as a terrorist organisation in Turkey, followed by the worst forms of discrimination against all organisations including schools and hospitals connected to Gülen. There is no international indictment of Gülen.

President Erdogan and Prime Minister face similar political and institutional resistance and charges of corruption. Hence he has used the Turk visit to send an implied message to each one who opposes his “No Way but my Way” of governance. This visit should be seen as one between two families with similar styles. That’s why the entire visit was Punjab centric with clear messages given to Pakistan’s Judiciary, armed forces and civil society.

Though the relations of Sharif family with rulers of Dubai, KSA and Qatar are well documented, growing business relations with Turkey and Chinese magnates is recent.  According to a private discussion with Aitezaz Ahsan, many opaque investments were made. The Sharifs use Pakistani state’s issues for their personal business. Their direct dealings with Modi, Erdogan, member of royal families of the Gulf States, Turkey, India and Pakistani business magnates; are their personal friends, not the friends of Pakistan! The Sharif’s foreign policy exists only at a personal level. They are using Pakistan to build personal friendship with rulers who will bail them out when needed. The Saudis did it last time. The Qataris and Turks are doing it now.

So the latest stumbling blocks for the Sharifs are the armed forces and multiple public interest petitions in the Supreme Court. Sharifs hope to see off the military overhang by the end of this month and the judiciary within another. Till then they must drag the case in Supreme Court.

We have to wait and see when the apex court decides to frame Questions of Law related to these petitions and use its constitutional powers under Article 184 (3) and beyond to settle the issue. Though the Court seems sure, the lawyers representing various petitioners are confused. They are cut and paste juvenile cubs that can drop a prey but do not know the art of killing. The Sharif’s know that these petitioners are not investigators and loopholes exist for a Houdini Act. If it comes to investigators, the dice is loaded in their favour.