Turkey Pressures Pakistan to Close Gulen-Backed Schools

(Photo: World Bulletin)

(Photo: World Bulletin)

The Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Pakistan for two days last week, and during the meetings with the officials in Islamabad, officials discussed the bilateral ties and the regional security situation – which included Cavusoglu lobbying for the country to close the school chains run by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara has blamed the former supporter of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his followers for the recent unsuccessful coup, writes Asad Hashim of Reuters. However, Gulen, who currently lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, has rejected the allegations. He also explained that Turkey had asked Pakistan to close these institutions long before the failed coup. Although Gulen has continuously declined involvement, Erdogan still demands his extradition. Washington says it requires additional information and evidence before taking such an action.

As The Express Tribune noted, during the official talks in Islamabad, Cavusoglu commented that Gulen’s organization needs to be stamped out. According to him, it has spread not only in Pakistan, but in many other neighboring countries:

“I am sure the necessary measures will be taken. We have to be very careful with such organizations and their causing risk and threat for the security and stability of every country that they have a presence.”

Nafees Zakria, the spokesperson of the Pakistani Foreign Office, commented that Islamabad would be in contact with Ankara on the case. He also added that his home country has always had brotherly, cordial ties with Turkey.

The Parliament of Pakistan approved a resolution condemning the failed military coup in Istanbul and Ankara. Zakria also added that Pakistan was aware of the Turkish concerns:

“Authorities in both the countries are in touch with one another to address Turkish concerns while also remaining cognisant of the importance of avoiding disruption in the academic programs of a considerable number of students.”

Another member of the official Turkish delegation, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, also admitted that both countries were on the same page when it came to fighting terrorism.

As GeoNews reported, if the 23 Pak-Turk schools in Pakistan shut down, it would directly affect more than 11,000 students and 1,500 teachers.

The Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister emphasized that his country has always supported Pakistan on its position on the Kashmir issue. He also suggested that a fact-finding commission needed to be appointed to investigate further human rights violations in Kashmir, and that Turkey and Pakistan are currently negotiating an Islamabad-Istanbul corridor.

Pakistan is not the only one country Turkey has applied pressure to regarding the Gulen-backed schools. Gulen’s Islamist “Hizmet” movement is in charge of over 2,000 educational institutions in 160 countries worldwide. However, The PakTurk organization, which has been active in Pakistan for over 21 years and has more than two dozen establishments across the country, denied being part of Gulen’s network. In an official press release, PakTurk International Schools expressed their deepest concerns over the allegations that they were part of Fethullah Gulen’s organization.

PakTurk International Schools declined any affiliations or connections with political or religious entities.