Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed a joint press conference in Islamabad on Thursday after a one-on-one meeting. As expected the traditional expressions of friendship and solidarity were staunchly reiterated, but beyond trade, co-operation and joint agreements, some unexpected points were made.

The Turkish President made an extended mention of the ceasefire violations at the Line of Control (LoC), and expressed solidarity with his “Kashmiri brothers”, adding that he hoped the dispute would be solved according to United Nation (UN) resolutions and the wishes of the people. He appreciated Pakistan’s bid for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership and even snuck in a backhanded reprimand for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and their boycott. All in all, he did everything the Pakistani state wants a foreign leader to do. Which begs the question, what does the Turkish President want in return?

Before we delve into that tricky question it must be remembered that this is not the same Erdogan that visited Pakistan and addressed the Parliament in the past. This Erdogan is the survivor of an attempted military coup, who has carried out a vicious purge of the military, civil service, and academia in its wake. Under this new Turkish leader, the country has undergone a radical transformation that seriously worries observers around the world about the state of civil liberties and human rights in the country.

As the sudden expulsion of Pak-Turk Schools faculty demonstrates, Erdogan now not only seeks the traditional economic partnership but also needs an ally in rooting out the so-called Fethullah Terror Organisation (Feto) – what Turkey calls an alleged terrorist organisation headed by US-based self-exiled cleric, Fethullah Gulen. Unsurprisingly, he railed against the group in his address, and Pakistan’s leadership will happily oblige.

However, the ambitions of Erdogan extend far beyond; just before leaving for Pakistan, the Turkish President saw the drafting of constitutional amendments that could govern Turkey until 2029 with expanded – and quite extensive – executive powers under proposals the ruling AK Party hopes will go to a referendum next spring.

With the European Union (EU) amongst other nations looking disapprovingly at this blatant consolidation of power, more than ever, the Turkish President needs nations that stand with him. Nawaz Sharif – who has a history with military misadventures and is himself short of fast friends in the international arena – is only too happy to comply.