The Turkish Connection: Pak-Turk Schools


Date posted: September 28, 2016

Umer Ali

We have not violated any law, nor do we work on a political agenda,” says Engin Yigit, Director, Public Relations, at PakTurk International Schools and Colleges. Leading me to his office on the first floor of the school’s Islamabad campus, he looks relaxed and shows no signs of strain.

Located in Sector H-8, the Islamabad campus of PakTurk School attracts students from varied backgrounds. It claims to provide “affordable quality education” to all segments of the population, with significant amounts given as scholarships to deserving students, to enable them to acquire quality education and enhance their quality of life. Highly regarded for its educational excellence, the school, which is located right next to Lahore Grammar School, offers tough competition to its rival institutes. Due to the summer break, there are no students to be seen on the campus, except for a few Turkish children playing in the well-equipped playground.

“There are no Turkish students at any of our campuses, except for the children of our staff members,” Mr. Yigit explains, as we sip Turkish tea in his office.

PakTurk International Schools and Colleges, a chain of Turkish educational institutions, was established in 1995 and the first PakTurk School was set up in Islamabad in 1997. The network has grown significantly since, and there 25 schools spread across Pakistan. With its branches extending from Karachi to Quetta and Jamshoro to Peshawar, the estimated number of students in all the campuses is said to be around 9,500.

The network of schools came under the media scanner last month, after the Turkish government demanded that Pakistan close down the entire network following the failed army coup to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Since then, Erdogan has ordered a ruthless purge and arrest of anyone even suspected of having links with his political rival, Fethullah Gülen – the religious scholar in exile in the US, whom Erdogan holds responsible for the coup attempt.

So far 67,000 Turkish government officials have been suspended on suspicion of being sympathetic to Gulen. A state of emergency was announced in the country, which suspended Turkey’s compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. Additionally, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines, 16 TV channels and 23 radio stations have also been closed.

Besides that, 15 universities, 1043 private schools and around 1230 charity organisations have also been forced to shut down. Thousands of teachers have been suspended by the Turkish government and academics have been barred from leaving the country until further notice.

Internationally, Somalia, Azerbaijan, and Sudan have shut down several Turkish schools and other educational institutions at the request of the Turkish government. However, Pakistan has yet to take a decision on the fate of the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges, which the Turkish government suspects of being been run by Gulen’s movement.

Responding to a question regardint the same, the Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said, “Pakistan has very close and brotherly ties with Turkey. We are aware of the Turkish concerns. Authorities in both countries are in touch with each other to address Turkish concerns, while also remaining cognizant of the importance of avoiding disruption in the academic activities of a sizeable number of students.”

According to some reports appearing in the national press, the government is on the verge of shutting down the schools. However, some officials deny this; they maintain that instead of closing down the schools, the government might take over their administration.

The PakTurk Schools and Colleges have been registered with the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, the Cambridge International Examinations and other regional boards. The curriculum taught at the schools is the same as that in any other school in the country, with nothing ‘special’ or ‘extra’ being taught.

Several reports published in Dawn and The Express Tribune, among others, indicated that the Board of Directors had been dissolved and also that the Turkish principals and Turkish nationals working in the administration as teachers were sacked. The reports further stated that the six-member Board of Directors would now consist of Pakistani nationals alone.

The director of Public Relations at PakTurk schools called the news “fabricated. The Board still comprises three Pakistani and three Turkish nationals,” he said.

pak-turk-school-2

While allegations of having links with the Gülen movement mount, the PakTurk administration vehemently denies any such connection. An official statement released by the PakTurk schools reads, “We are deeply concerned about allegations made by a certain section of the social media trying to connect the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges in Pakistan with Mr. Fethullah Gülen or the political movement ascribed to him in [the] wake of the recent unfortunate and reprehensible events in Turkey.

“We do, unequivocally, clarify that the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges in Pakistan have no affiliation or connection with any political individual or any movement or organisation, whether political, religious or denominational, nor do we have a financial relationship with any movement,” the statement further added.

While the official stance of the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges continues to remain zero alignment or links with Gulen, there have been a few pointers which may be used to connect the dots between the Gulen-inspired Hizmet Movement and the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges. In the past, Hizmet News – an official media channel for the movement – has continuously highlighted the achievements of PakTurk International Schools and Colleges, as well as the news of their possible closure as a consequence of pressure from the Erdogan-led Turkish government.

A 2008 report by The New York Times, titled ‘Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Vision of Islam,’ written by Sabrina Tavernise, focused on the curriculum and religious activities of the PakTurk schools.

“They prescribe a strong western curriculum, with courses taught in English, from math and science to English literature and Shakespeare,” the report said.

“They do not teach religion beyond the one class in Islamic studies that is required by the state. Unlike British-style private schools, however, they encourage Islam in their dormitories, where teachers set examples in lifestyle and prayer.”

“Religious schools can’t give them the modern education. PakTurk does both,” says a father who is quoted in the report.

“The model,” Ms. Tavernise goes on to write, “is the brainchild of a Turkish Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gülen. A preacher with millions of followers in Turkey, Mr. Gülen, 69, comes from a tradition of Sufism, an introspective, mystical strain of Islam.”

In recent reports, the administration of the PakTurk schools has denied having any links with the Gülen movement on an official level; however, individuals may have been “inspired” by Gülen and his movement.

pak-turk-school-3

While the decision on whether or not to let the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges function under the same administration has yet to be taken, the administration has moved the Islamabad High Court to stop the government from moving against them.

“We didn’t have any links with Mr. Gülen before or after the coup, and we hope that the Pakistan government realises this, and everything returns to normal soon,” says Mr. Yigit.

Source: News Line Magazine , September 28, 2016


Related News

Teacher detained while visiting relatives during Eid holiday

A teacher, identified with his/her initials M.P., was detained while on a visit to his/her relatives in Tatar village, Sivas on the very first day of the Muslim festival, Eid al-Fitr. It is a tradition that Muslims visit their elderly relatives at their homes as part of Eid celebrations in Turkey.

70-year-old intending Hajj pilgrim detained on coup charges at airport

A 70-year-old prospective Hajj pilgrim was detained on coup charges at İstanbul’s Atatürk on Thursday night. Kıymet G., who is being held by police, was taken into custody while she was waiting to get on a Turkish Airlines flight for the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

40,000 people reported to authorities for being Gülen followers since July 15

As many as 40,000 people have been reported to the Ankara Police Department for being followers of the Gülen movement since a failed coup attempt on July 15. Although the movement strongly denies having any role in the corruption probe and the coup attempt, the government accuses it of having masterminded both despite the lack of any tangible evidence.

World-famous Hafiz Naina: Turkish Schools serve humanity

The world-famous Egyptian hafiz, Dr. Ahmed Naina said the Turkish schools inspired by Fethullah Gulen are serving humanity worldwide. Noting that he visits Turkish schools in every country he travels, Naina said, “I cut the ribbon on the Turkish school in Egypt. May Allah be pleased with those initiating these services.” Naina recited Qur’an at the event held […]

‘Let my husband go to another country, just not Turkey’

Turkish citizen Turgay Karaman fears being deported back to Turkey, his wife Ayse Gul said today. “If his arrest has anything to do with political matters, and if the Malaysian authorities don’t want him here, they can send him to any other country but just not Turkey, because they will torture him there,” she told a press conference after the meeting.

Abant Platform convenes to discuss problems of Turkish education system

Tens of educators, bureaucrats, civil society organizations and private education foundations from Turkey and 15 other countries have come together to discuss the problems of Turkish education system and to propose possible solutions to those problems at the Abant Platform’s 31st meeting that kicked off on Saturday in İstanbul.

Latest News

Jailed woman in hospital for delivery to be returned to jail with new-born

Former intel chief calls for use of ASALA, MOSSAD tactics to kill Gülen followers

Fethullah Gülen’s Message for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

A new refugee flow to Europe: Turkish refugees

What can Christians learn from a global Islamic movement?

Jailed teacher dies of cancer in Turkish prison

Two women detained during visit to jailed husbands

668 babies – children in Turkey’s prisons

Mother with 25-day-old baby jailed on coup charges in Istanbul

In Case You Missed It

Gülen, a man of peace, not behind attempted coup in Turkey

86-year-old man in 11th month of his arrest on coup charges

Serbian torture base now houses Turkish school

The engagement and integration to the larger society is very crucial for Muslims

Gov’t keeps purging, dozens of police officials across Turkey have been removed

Panel on Middle East perspectives held at Ishik University

‘Parallel’ inspection launched against prominent Jewish-Turkish businessman İshak Alaton

TAA holding annual Turkic American Convention in Washington

That Erdogan’s War With Education In Africa

Copyright 2018 Hizmet News