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Pak-Turk schools fiasco

Gulmina Bilal Ahmad

Just when everyone had thought that the Pak-Turk school fiasco is over for good, the Interior Ministry issued notices to Turkish staff of the school chain to leave Pakistan by 20th November. A very clear indicator for such a move is the ongoing state visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This is undoubtedly an abrupt move that will have its effects on all the stakeholders linked with the Pak-Turk schools. The students will suffer a lot from this, and so will their parents. Not to forget the inconvenience this will cause to 108 Turkish staffers and their families, which according to news reports are around 400 in number. Now they have to leave the country within 3 to 4 days, which might become impossible for them with all the pending work on their tables and all the other necessities that they have to attend to.Everyone knows that this particular move was triggered by the unsuccessful military coup in Turkey, which is linked with the US based cleric Fateh Ullah Gullen. It is Gullen whose organisation runs the Pak-Turk school-chain established in 1995. All of the Turkish Principals have already been removed and the board of directors dissolved. The staffers of 26 Pak-Turk schools and colleges had filed for the extension of their visas during June but they have been rejected. The management of the schools have moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against this decision.
Unfortunately, the Pakistani government is once again following the policy of appeasement that it had been following in the past as well. This is not to say that Pakistan should not be friendly towards other countries, but it must not get involved in their internal issues. This particular issue is definitely Turkey’s internal issue that has nothing to do with our politics or more importantly our national interest. Although, it might be true that our appeasement policies with USA or China cost us dearly, but they had something for us as well. But this particular move by the Pakistani government seems like an out of the way favour for the Turkish president. It is true that Turkish companies are managing METRO bus services, waste management services and parking services in many cities across Punjab, but they are getting paid for that, so the government is not indebted to the Turkish government for it. If you ask me, it seems more like a personal favour that the prime minister is doing to the Turkish president, but at what cost?This personal favour to the Turkish president or the Turkish government can cost 11,000 students of the Pak-Turk school chain very dearly. It can affect their academic careers, and it will have psychological effects on students and their parents. Moreover, a sudden change of the school management will definitely have management related and administrative issues. So we can safely say that a big mess is in the offing.Not just this but there is a proposal from the Turkish government to handover the schools management to a pro-Turkish president NGO named ‘Maarif Foundation.’ According to reports, the Chief Advisor of the Turkish President Mr. Ilnur Cevik, crossed diplomatic limits and norms when he mentioned this in one of his articles that the Pakistani government has not closed the Pak-Turk schools and the Turkish President in his visit must pull someone’s ears to make it happen. The Pakistani bureaucracy also complains about unnecessary demands from the Turkish government. More importantly, the Maarif Foundation is a newly founded organisation that has no international experience, especially when compared with the 21 years experience of the present Pak-Turk schools management. Secondly, the foundation is allegedly based on a certain political ideology and espouses a brand of racism, which can be problematic for a country like ours, especially when we are already fighting a war against extremism and skewed ideologies.
Our government must stop following the policy of appeasement, especially when the future of 11,000 students, their teachers, and their families is at stake. The Pak-Turk school chain has been educating Pakistani students for the last 21 years and I am sure that it is doing a great job. Our government must avoid indulging in private affairs of other countries, and same stands true for other countries that pressurise us to do so. We are a sovereign country and we must prove it to others that they are not allowed to dictate to us.

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