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EU Parliament Slams Pakistan Court For ‘FETO’ Ruling

Members of the European Parliament strongly condemned Pakistan’s Supreme Court for a ruling on Dec. 13, 2018, to identify the former administrative staff of Pakistan-based Turkish schools, run by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opponents, as “terrorists” and expressed concerns for the involvement of political motives in the judicial decision.

In a letter to Pakistan’s High Representative for Pakistan-EU Joint Commission, a number of members expressed dismay over the court ruling against Pak-Turk International Cag Education Foundation and its personnel. The Pakistani top court, after years of prevarication, eventually labeled the foundation as a “terrorist organization” after facing persistent pressure from Ankara to do so.

The legal move drew sharp rebuke and international criticism. The letter, signed by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, and other senior members, seemingly exhibited a degree of skepticism over the independent and impartial nature of the ruling given the political factors at play.

“As a result, we were informed by several reliable sources and human rights organizations,” the E.U. letter emphasized, “that these schools and their staff have been under extreme pressure in Pakistan due to the political spill over of the current political developments in Turkey.”

The very recent decision against the Pak-Turk International Cag Education Foundation, the European lawmakers asserted, sparked concern among the parliamentarians. Furthermore, lawmakers who put their signatories into the letter stated that they sensed some political influence over the legal process.

“The circumstances in which the Supreme Court took the mentioned decision,” the letter contended, “demonstrated that the Turkish authorities had been involved in this politically motivated process.”

There is a long prologue to the Supreme Court’s designation of Pak-Turk International Cag Education Foundation as a ‘terrorist organization.” Ankara had long pressed the authorities in Islamabad to either shut down those schools affiliated with U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen or transfer them to the newly found Maarif Foundation entrusted by Turkey with the task of managing the seizure of Gulen-linked schools across the world. This ambitious grand policy has pit Turkey against a number of host countries which appeared recalcitrant and dragged their feet before finally acquiescing to Ankara.

Pakistan at first equivocated at the Turkish requests but later began catering to Ankara’s demands since 2016 when an abortive military coup against President Erdogan swayed the previously reticent legislature in Islamabad. The Turkish government, so far without convincing proof in universal standards, holds Gulen movement responsible for the botched attempt that rattled Turkey and ignited a sweeping purge in its chaotic aftermath.

The members of the European Parliament displayed genuine concerns over the wellbeing of Turkish educators in Pakistan.

“Therefore, we are deeply concerned that educators and the entire staff working for these schools in Pakistan are facing ill-treatment and be the victims of human rights violations following this decision in Pakistan, as well as in Turkey, if they are going to be deported,” the letter noted.

Their concerns, for obvious reasons, are not unfounded. In late 2017, Pakistan military intelligence snatched Mesut Kacmaz, a former director at Pak-Turk Cag Foundation, and his family members in an operation that commanded the attention of leading international media outlets. The incident triggered widespread international criticism, including a note by the U.N. given that Kacmaz family was under the U.N. protection as part of its refugee program. The wellbeing and safety of other Turkish educators who still remain in Pakistan appear to be in peril given Ankara’s repeated efforts for their extradition.

Global Hunt of Gulen People and Pakistan

The fixation on rooting out Gulen-linked schools across the globe has become a defining element of President Erdogan’s legacy in the Turkish foreign policy. For the Turkish authorities, that policy has emerged as a central staple of new diplomacy as Turkey’s diplomats embarked on a relentless campaign to cajole local authorities in countless countries to budge their position in favor of Ankara’s longstanding demand for the shutdown of those schools.

The pressure, sometimes combined with the offer of financial aid, seemingly paid dividends in more than a dozen countries, including Pakistan. What anchors Maarif-led takeover of Gulen-related schools is periodic kidnapping or abduction operations by the Turkish intelligence against members of the Gulen Movement. Not merely satisfied by the shutdown or takeover of the schools, Ankara wants to have teachers extradited to Turkey as well.

This two-pillar strategy was evidently on display in Moldova, Kosova, Gabon, Ukraine, Malaysia and Pakistan. The E.U. letter shows appreciation of this fact and the acute danger. Though the language of the letter is crystal clear, how it would persuade Pakistani authorities is less so.

The crushing of the movement both at home and abroad has remained a sticking point for Turkey’s government since 2013. Hence, by every indication, the Erdogan government shows no signs of abating its repression and global haunt against this group.

Separately, the E.U. letter lamented that the Supreme Court’s decision was a betrayal of the spirit of Pakistan-EU Joint Commission and “(related meetings on democracy, governance, the rule of law and human rights that took place in November 2018).”

The schools in Pakistan earned acclaim at international level for its positive contribution to science and advance education. The New York Times, in a lengthy report in 2008, lavishly praised the role of the schools in fighting the roots of radicalism in Pakistan where madrasah remains a key pillar of basic education in rural parts of the country. The Turkish schools, the Times report observed, conjure up a moderate vision of Islam by blending together science, technology and religion in harmony in its curriculum.

The letter from the European Parliament underlined a similar point. “These schools and their staff proved themselves to be of major importance, contributing to education and social co-existence in Pakistan and in many European countries,” lawmakers stated in the letter. “Therefore,” the EU politicians added, “we believe that these education institutions should not be subject to any form of legal decision, which is politically motivated at the request by the Turkish government and its authorities.”

Pakistan’s authorities had long appreciated the points elaborated in the Times report and repeatedly exhibited their consent with the presence of schools in their country. Not long before the coup, Pakistan’s senior politicians dismissed Ankara’s terrorism charges and labels against the owners and managers of those schools. But after 2016, the entire political mood changed in Islamabad as Pakistan endorsed the Turkish president’s official narrative on the military insurrection.

The EU letter, in its conclusion, called on Pakistan authorities to ensure the safety of Turkish educators sought by Ankara. “We, therefore, urge you and the EEAS, notably through the EU Delegation to Pakistan, to use all the means at your disposal to ensure a safe atmosphere for Pak-Turk International Cag Education Foundation and its staff.” It remains to be seen whether Pakistan would choose to abide by international norms and the EU call or side by Ankara.

Timeline of the diplomatic traffic between Turkey and Pakistan before the court decision

The below timeline of the diplomatic traffic between Turkey and Pakistan before the court decision shows how the independence of Judiciary is cast into big questions.

The mutual visits and relationship in following the timeline of dates indicate how Turkey exert an influence out of the diplomatic context on Pakistan and spill over its own political development in Pakistan to pressure her judicial system. To further using and taking opportunities of historical economic and military bilateral and personal connections to designate Gulen movement affiliated schools and educators as a terrorist organization in Pakistan, 450 families were faced inhuman treatments and renowned international school chain’s management were handed over to Turkish Maarif Foundation. To many experts and reliable sources, the decision was taken right after the visit of Chief Justice of Pakistan Miam Saqib Nisar Turkey as an honor guest of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

November 20, 2016

Pakistan asked 450 Turkish International Pak-Turk teachers and their families to leave the country on the ground of “non-approval of renewal or extension of visa” Erdogan said “the decision is very pleasing”

September 13-14, 2018

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu paid a visit to Pakistan upon an invitation of Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi Cavusoglu raised the issue with authorities.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu paid a visit to Pakistan upon an invitation of Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi Cavusoglu raised the issue with authorities.

December 16-17, 2018

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar went to Turkey upon a special invitation by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to participate in Seb-i Arus ceremony in Konya (commemorating the death anniversary of Maulana Rumi). Nisar highlighted the “love and affection” between both countries.

Earlier of the day, CJP met with the president of the Turkish Constitutional court Zühtü Arslan

During the meeting, Nisar and the president of the Turkish Constitutional Court Arslan “agreed to further strengthen institutional collaborations between the highest courts of the two countries.”

December 17, 2018

Minister Mr. Soylu maintained contacts during official visits, he came together with Prime Minister İmran Han and Minister of Interior Şeyriyar Afridi.

In meetings, both sides focused on border security, Pakistan police training, migration and combat against all kind of terrorist organization commonly including Gülen Movement (press release, Turkey Ministry of Interior Affairs)

December 28, 2018

Islamabad hosted Turkish Minister for National Defense Hulusi Akar. Akar visited Minister for Defense Production Zubaida Jalal, Chief of the Joint Staffs Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat and the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajva. Meetings were held separately.

December 28, 2018

“The decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (recognizing Gulen Movement as a Terrorist organization) is considered as a manifestation of mutual cooperation nourished by strong bonds between Turkey and Pakistan, and it should set a precedent for all countries,” (No:348 Press Release by Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

January 3, 2019

Newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Visit two days official visit to Turkey for intensifying the bilateral relationship

January 17, 2019

25th Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar retired.

January 19, 2019

Turk Park International Schools were transferred to Maarif Foundation, it started education in Islamabad and Hyderabad and Jamshoro.

Abdulmelik Alkan is a doctoral researcher focusing on International Relations.

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Abdulmelik Alkan
Abdulmelik Alkan
Abdulmelik Alkan is a doctoral researcher focusing on Foreign Policy Analysis, South Caucus, diaspora and ethnic minorities.

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