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Pak-Turk Bond: Principals eliminated from Turkish schools in Pakistan

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LAHORE: The management of the Pak Turk Schools has removed the Turkish principals from 28 schools and colleges of the chain besides dissolving the board of directors (BoD) having representation of Turkish nationals.

Last week, Pakistan had promised Turkey’s visiting Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu that it would investigate the network of schools Ankara wanted to shut down for its alleged links with the US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, it blames for last month’s coup attempt.

A Federal government’s source told Dawn that the Turkish government had suggested handing over of the chain to an international NGO having links with the Erdogan administration.

The Turkish nationals, earlier serving on administrative posts, will now work as teachers, according to a senior official.

PakTurk schools are no more registered under the International NGO (PakTurk International Education Foundation). They will work under a locally-registered PakTurk Education Foundation. The official said a new six-member BoD with complete local representation had been formed to run the affairs of the schools.

Mr Çavuşoğlu had said: “It is not secret that Gulen’s organisation has institutions or their presence in Pakistan and in many other countries. I am sure the necessary measures will be taken. We have to be very careful with such organisations and their causing risk and threat for the security and stability of every country that they have presence.”The senior official says after such drastic changes in the system, there is no point in to either close down or hand them over to any government’s recommended organisation.

“After bringing these schools under a local NGO, the government should stop looking for an excuse to oblige its Turkish counterpart,” he said, requesting the Nawaz government to consult the new BoD.

The network of PakTurk schools and colleges was launched in 1995 under the international NGO registered with the Turkish government. “Initially funding was made from Turkey to establish state of art campuses in Pakistan. But for the last 15 years or so it is generating its own funds here, offering free education and boarding facilities to 35 per cent of the students besides awarding foreign scholarships to them,” the official said.

The chain of 28 schools and colleges is functioning in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Multan, Karachi, Hyderabad, Khairpur, Jamshoro and Quetta. Of the 1,500 staffers, 150 are Turkish. Some 11,000 students from pre-school to ‘A’ levels are studying there.

The government is facing pressure from the Turkish authorities to expel the Turkish nationals working with the PakTurk schools.

“Some of them have a Pakistani visa valid for a year or two and some have applied for extension,” an official source said.

“The Turkish staff fears action by the Erdogan administration on their return as the PakTurk Schools earlier run by the NGO linked with his (Erdogan) opponent Gulen (who has been self-exile in Pennsylvania since 1999),” he said. Turkey has declared Gulen’s organisation a ‘terrorist entity’ after the coup attempt in July 15.

The schools management has also filed a petition in Islamabad and Lahore high courts, seeking orders to stop the Pakistani government from taking any unlawful step which would compromise the future of the students of the institutions or to maintain status quo. As uncertainty rules the system, parents say withdrawal of the faculty and change of management will impact the standard of learning.

“We appeal to the PML-N government not to stake the future of 11,000 students of PakTurk schools and colleges,” said Saima Ilyas, the representative of the Parents-Teachers Association of the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges, Lahore.

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