Outcry as Pakistan deports teachers linked to Turkish coup suspect
ISLAMABAD - Agence France-PressePakistan’s decision to deport dozens of Turkish teachers was “politically-motivated”, Amnesty International said Nov. 17, and sparked small demonstrations in major cities as Turkey’s president wrapped up a state visit to the country.
Pakistan confirmed Nov. 16 it had ordered the deportation of 130 teachers along with school staff and their families, some 450 people in total, by Nov 20.
The private PakTurk International schools are allegedly backed by U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is widely believed to have orchestrated the failed July 15 coup attempt.
Several hundred students in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi demonstrated against the decision, which was also condemned by the Pakistani press after it was made public as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived for a two-day visit.
School officials say up to 10,000 students will be affected, a blow to education in Pakistan where government figures say a staggering 24 million children are already out of school.
The move “will only hurt Pakistan’s children”, Amnesty International said in a statement.
“What the country needs is more classrooms and more teachers, not a politically-motivated decision to purge educators at the behest of the Turkish government,” the rights group’s South Asia Director Champa Patel said.
“The sudden move to issue marching orders, and that too on the eve of Mr. Erdoğan’s visit, smacks of intentions that may have nothing to do with the quality of teaching or education,” said an editorial in Pakistan’s biggest English-language newspaper Dawn.
Around 200 parents and students voiced outrage at the decision during the demonstration in Islamabad on Nov. 17, waving placards and calling for “justice.”
“We want our teachers to stay, we want to study. Of course we all know that they [the teachers] are not terrorists. Why are we treating them with cruelty? Like if they go back to Turkey, they will also arrest them. What is their mistake?” 17-year-old student Abdullah Tahir told AFP.
Erdoğan praised the move at a press conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and during a later address in parliament, branding Gülen movement as “evil” and “a terrorist organisation” that is also a threat to Pakistan.
He thanked Islamabad for its “solidarity”, and promised PakTurk students would be cared for at “the highest standards.”