Pak-Turk schools case: IHC grants DAG more time to seek govt’s instructions

School operators approached bench after Turkey requested its closure


Rizwan Shehzad August 05, 2016
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shaking hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday granted the deputy attorney general (DAG) three weeks to seek instructions from the ministry of interior and the ministry of foreign affairs after the Pak-Turk Education Foundation moved the IHC against the possible closure of its school network by the government.

Justice Aamer Farooq allowed the DAG’s request to grant more time for seeking instructions from the ministries. Meanwhile, when the petitioner counsel Hafiz Arfaat raised concerns that the government would close the Pak-Turk Education Foundation, the court directed him to approach the court if such a decision was taken.

During the hearing, the DAG said that government has not yet taken any decision on the issue and most of the information was based on rumours perpetuated by some segments of the media.

In the petition, another counsel for the petitioner, Hafiz SA Rehman, has prayed the court to allow them to keep operating without interference. While citing the apprehensions that Pakistani government would either close the schools or transfer their assets to some other entity, the counsel has also prayed that the schools network should not be taken over by a third party.

The status of the schools plunged into uncertainty after Turkey’s ambassador called on the Pakistan government to close down all the institutions, claiming that they are backed by the Fethullah Gulen-inspired Hizmet movement.

On Tuesday, during an official visit to Islamabad, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stressed the chain of ‘Gulen-run’ schools in Pakistan should be shut down.

Ankara claims that Gulen, who is living in self-imposed exile in the United States, was the alleged mastermind of the failed military coup in Turkey a few weeks back. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the cleric — a former Erdogan ally — and followers for the rebellion and demanded his extradition. Gulen has denied any involvement.

In his arguments, Rehman said that the foundation is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and has a valid license to operate. He said that over 11,000 students and 1,500 teachers will be directly affected if the 23 Pak-Turk schools are closed.

He said that the Pak-Turk International Schools and Colleges in Pakistan have no affiliation or connection with any political individual, movement or organization, and have no financial relationship with any movement.

Rehman added that the foundation is being run by eight-member board of governors, including four Pakistani and four Turkish officials.

The court later adjourned for three weeks.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2016.

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