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Foreign pressure Fate of PakTurk schools hangs in the balance

Foreign pressure?: Fate of PakTurk schools hangs in the balance

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The future of more than 100 Turkish citizens working for private schools set up by the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges network plunged into uncertainty after the government has declined to extend their visas and intended to send them back to Turkey.

The decision is significant because it came at a time when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to arrive on a two-day visit to Pakistan on Wednesday. In addition it has been a consistent demand of the Turkish government to shut down these schools which, it claimed, are backed by Fethullah Gulen-inspired Hizmet movement.

Ankara claims Gulen, who is living in self-imposed exile in the US, was the alleged mastermind of the failed military coup in Turkey. Gulen has denied any involvement.

According to a notification of the Ministry of Interior dated November 14, 2016, the teachers have been asked to leave the country within three days before November 20, 2016,

Sources in the ministry told The Express Tribune that there are over 100 teachers working for the schools registered under the international NGO – the PakTurk International Education Foundation – who have been denied the extension in their visas.

The network of 28 schools and colleges in Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Karachi, Hyderabad, Khairpur and Jamshoro has a staff strength of around 1,200 Pakistanis and 134 Turkish personnel who teach around 10,000 students from pre-school to A level.

“This ministry has already issued an exit permit, without overstay charges, in favour of these foreigners,” the notification stated.

There are reports that these teachers have been asked to leave the country by November 20. The immigration officials have also received the order in this regard.

According to an official, the move sparked fears in the school management because the Turkish government had tried to shut down the schools and asked the Pakistani authorities to deport the school administration back to Turkey.

“The teachers fear the letter is part of a move to deport Turkish teachers to please a foreign president. The timing is suspicious and we believe, we will be deported and jailed,” the official said.

It is feared that students studying at the schools would be directly affected. But the Turkish and Pakistani high-ups have been insisting otherwise. On Tuesday, Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, while talking to media after attending a meeting on reforms in Fata, said: “The students of PakTurk Schools would not be affected at all after sending the teachers back to Turkey.”

Meanwhile, PakTurk Education Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Alamgir Khan, in a statement, said, “The PakTurk International Schools and Colleges are extremely concerned over the abrupt decision of the government.

“The Turkish teachers, management and their family members numbering approximately 450 individuals including schoolchildren, infants and women have been asked to leave the country within three days an extraordinary time constraint in consequence of non-approval of their requests for extension of Pakistani visa.”

Courtesy : Express Tribune

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