Self versus national interest

Despite the poor work done by the PTI’s legal team, we are seeing a number of new facts coming to light

Kamal Siddiqi November 20, 2016
The writer is the former editor of The Express Tribune. He tweets as @tribunian

As the Panama Papers scandal unravels, despite the poor work done by the PTI’s legal team, we are seeing a number of new facts coming to light. The common stream continues to be how our businessman prime minister furthered his personal gains at the cost of the national interest. For example, why would a Qatari prince help the Sharif family buy property in London. And what would he receive in return?

A similar situation is unfolding before our eyes as our elected government is allowing the president of Turkey to further his political agenda - not necessarily in the interest of Turkey itself - on our soil.

On November 12, top executives of the Pak-Turk Educational Foundation were summoned to Lahore before a high-level ministerial meeting. The four-member team was informed that there is nothing to worry about and the government has no complaints with the way the foundation was running its 28 schools. They were told to wait further for the pending visa renewal of 108 staffers and their dependents.

But within days they were informed that they had to leave by November 20. Our interior ministry, without assigning any credible reason, asked these teachers to leave by Sunday knowing full well that it is sending these people to their doom - if they enter Turkey, they will be persecuted and possibly imprisoned.

The teaching and non-teaching staff had lived in Pakistan for years. Now they face arrests and maltreatment once they land in Turkey. Over 30 such prisoners have died in Turkey’s jails under mysterious circumstances. In the past we have given refuge to millions who were escaping persecution, why are we now throwing these hapless people into the fire and at whose instructions?

The Pak-Turk Schools has been imparting quality education to thousands of children all over the country. I have gone through their curriculum and have not found them imparting any extremist ideology or teaching anything that goes against the interests of Pakistan.

The fees these schools charge is nominal and like the Christian missionary schools that have been existing in our country for several decades, the Pak-Turk schools are staffed by a group of dedicated teachers whose mission is to impart education and nothing else. These schools offer education that should be offered by our government in the first place.

If we recall, last year three Filipina missionary workers, including the principal of the Islamabad Convent School, had blamed the interior minister’s wife for cancellation of their visas owing to her personal grudge following her resignation from the school after relations with the principal strained. This is how our leaders work. Our nation suffers in key areas where we need the most help because the ego or interest of one politician or another is hurt.

The insane move by the government has received international attention. A number of quarters have decried the move by some people who seem to be furthering their own agenda here. With 24 million children out of school in Pakistan, one can only wonder what was taken into consideration when deciding to expel these teachers and in effect close down the schools or at least hamper their activities severely.

It is no coincidence that the directives surfaced just before the arrival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Pakistan. The Erdogan administration wants the entire world to deport Turkish nationals employed in the Gulen-inspired institution while handing over the facilities to Maarif Foundation, recently created to forward another ideology. Only Pakistan has obliged.

Even here, legally the takeover of 28 schools, enrolling nearly 12,000 students, won’t be possible. But the local media has said that a shortcut can be the forced replacement of the board of directors with ones from the recently registered Maarif Foundation. This has already been set in motion by our ever-pleasing government.

How long will we in Pakistan allow others to determine our national interests? More important, how long will we let some leaders further their own interests at the expense of Pakistan.

The damage has been done. But we must now make amends. We should allow Pak-Turk Foundation to resume its good work. And we must try and bring back those who we have deported. This must be done immediately. Let’s do some thing for Pakistan for a change.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2016.

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Nighat | 7 years ago | Reply I really appreciate the Turkish people work here they are nice very much focussed people...they groom the child like no institution does here..Islam also does not teach us to treat them like the way govt is doing ....I'm really in support with them son I really sad for his teachers....I wish they be there always...
Muneeba | 7 years ago | Reply Instead of following other's dictations,our children's education should be our priority.Turkish ppl are serving here for years,we should be grateful to them and give them respect and love which they truly deserve.
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