KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed on Tuesday the federal law officer to submit comments on behalf of the interior ministry on a petition against the deportation of the employees of the Pak-Turk International Schools in the province.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, also extended till November 15 its stay order granted earlier against the deportation of the 12 Turkish nationals, who had filed the petition.
The petition was filed by Ali Yilmaz, along with other employees of the Pak-Turk schools, who apprehended their likely deportation after their colleague was believed to have gone missing along with his family from Lahore. The petitioners nominated the federal interior ministry, Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) director, Sindh inspector-general of police, East DIG and Gulshan-e-Iqbal SHO as respondents.
During Tuesday's proceedings, the federal law officer requested the SHC to grant more time to enable him to file comments on behalf of the interior secretary and FIA director.
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In the plea, the Turkish nationals had maintained that Islamabad was trying to deport staffers of the Pak-Turk schools under pressure from Ankara. They recalled that the court had previously restrained the federal authorities from deporting the Turkish nationals who were performing teaching duties at the schools run by the foundation of a US-based Turkish leader, Fethullah Gulen. The petitioners had alleged that the authorities were still deporting Turkish nationals and their families in violation of the order passed by the high court.
The Pak-Turk schools' teachers pleaded that a principal of the school, Mesut Kacmez, and his family members were taken away by men in plainclothes from their residence in Lahore on September 27.
Kacmez, with his wife and two young daughters, was reportedly shifted to an undisclosed location, the petitioners said, quoting media reports.
They added that an attempt was also recently made to kidnap the family of another Turkish national in Khairpur. The petitioners pleaded to the court to restrain the federal and provincial authorities from deporting them to Turkey.
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The Turkish nationals also requested the court to direct the interior ministry to put the names of all the employees of the Pak-Turk schools on the Exit-Control List (ECL) to stop their deportation.
In December last year, the deportation issue was brought to the court by a group of teachers, students and parents of the Pak-Turk schools against the deportation of Turkish teaching staff, following a request by the Turkish government for their forced return.
Turkey had requested Pakistan to close down the Pak-Turk schools run by Gulen, who had been accused of instigating a coup in Turkey last year.
The interior ministry had ordered the Turkish staff of the educational network in November last year to leave Pakistan, rejecting their applications for visa extensions.
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However, the students and teachers had argued that the Pak-Turk Foundation was a non-profit, non-governmental organisation which had nothing to do with the politics of Pakistan or Turkey. The petitioners maintained that the deportation order would hurt the interests of 11,000 students studying at the schools.
The court was informed that the Turkish teachers had applied for an extension in their visas, but instead of granting the extension, the government ordered the staff to leave the country.
They maintained that the Pak-Turk schools provide inexpensive but high-quality education. "Therefore, the decision to deport the teachers will harm the future of the students of these schools."