Saturday, July 30, 2016

PakTurk schools may become a casualty of attempted coup Turkey

by Salman Hameed

There are Gulen-linked schools all around the world. They usually provide high quality education, are apolitical, and follow the local educational structure.  There are several of them in the US ("Harmony Schools") and considered amongst the best, in particular in math and science. Just in Texas, they operate 46 campuses and educate about 31,000 students. However, Texas has just opened a probe against these schools on behalf of the Turkish government.

In Pakistan, the Turkish ambassadors has asked the government to take a more direct action and close down 28 schools located in seven cities. This is truly unfortunate, as we are talking about affecting more 10,000 students! Here is a bit from Dawn:

The future of private schools set up by the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges network plunged into uncertainty a day after Turkey’s ambassador called on the Pakistan government to close down all the institutions backed by the Fethullah Gulen-inspired Hizmet movement. 
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s closeness with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistan’s brotherly relations with Turkey put pressure on the federal government to make a decision that does not upset its strong ally. The Foreign Office is taking the ambassador’s request very seriously, and the foreign secretary has chaired a meeting to explore ideas on how to proceed. 
The network of 28 schools and colleges in Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Karachi, Hyderabad, Khairpur and Jamshoro has a staff strength of 1,500 who teach around 10,000 students from pre-school to A level. “Since 1995, our schools have been giving quality education to Pakistani students with no political motivation or illegal activity,” says Ali Yilmaz, the Sindh education director for the association, adding that Turkish staff works in Pakistan legally through an NGO visa. 
Although the PakTurk network officially denies being linked to “any political or religious movement”, it is widely believed by the Turkish government that the schools are being run by the supporters of Gulen in several countries, including Pakistan, for decades.
And just like the US, these are highly regarded for the quality of education. I hope the schools stay open and the government can navigate this tricky terrain. There is already an enormous need for good quality of schools in Pakistan, and it would be terrible to leave 10,000 students in a lurch. But I can imagine the pressure on Pakistan in this regard:
Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid says a tactful decision will be made. “We will definitely listen to them [the Turkish government] and their concerns,” he says, adding that no sudden move will be made and that the Foreign Office will write to the provinces as education is a provincial matter. 
“We will also have to take into account that there are thousands of children studying at these schools. The government will take a decision that does not cause damage to the students yet also acknowledges the request of the Turkish government.” 
A government official familiar with the matter says the schools are linked with Gulen and have long been a source of agitation for Erdogan. “The Turkish government has been asking Pakistan to close these schools for a while but we resisted. In Punjab, the PakTurk network had asked for a piece of land for school but they were not given the lease. The participation of the Punjab government in their activities has dwindled for this reason,” he says, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak on the matter. 
“Gulen has a trait: they are very legally sound so the government did not have any reason to take action against them.” 
“But now, I don’t think the government can sustain these schools. There will be lot of pressure from Erdogan and Islamabad will be compelled to come up with an excuse to close them.”
Read the full article here


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