Erdoğan regime’s banditry targeting Turkish teachers stirs debate in Pakistan

The abduction of Mesut Kaçmaz, the director of Pak-Turk School, and his family members in Pakistan and their illegal deportation to Turkey have led to a debate in the country as no record of the extradition is available with the concerned authorities in Pakistan.

Kaçmaz family, who were abducted from their home at a midnight in Lahore on September 27, were deported by Pakistani government to Turkey on early Saturday just two days before their scheduled appearance before a Pakistani court on Monday.

According to information given by the friends, Mesut Kaçmaz and his wife Meral Kaçmaz were reportedly transferred to Ankara for interrogation. They were blindfolded and boarded on an unmarked flight from Islamabad for İstanbul in the morning on October 14, 2017. It was learned that teenaged daughters of Kaçmaz Couple have not been detained and reportedly staying with a relative in İstanbul.

The Lahore High Court, while hearing a habeas corpus petition against the disappearance of Kaçmaz, his wife, and daughters had ordered the government not to deport them and put their names on the Exit Control List (ECL). The Kaçmazs were living in Pakistan under an asylum seeker certificate issued by UNHCR, which was valid till November 24, 2017.

The couple’s daughters –Huda Nur (17) and Fatma Huma — had informed a former regional director of the Pak-Turk schools of the deportation. The daughters’ had said that their parents were handed over to a Turkish police team which came to Islamabad by a special plane.

According to Pakistani media reports, there were Turkish police officers on the plane and the victims were handed over to them. However, the concerned Pakistani quarters are still silent about their deportation from Pakistan. Sources in the Pakistani Interior Ministry and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told The Express Tribune that there is no record of any such deportation at Integrated Border Management System (IBMS), a system installed at the airports to check computerised arrival and departure of any traveler.

The sources said to the The Express Tribune that IBMS record only shows arrival of Kaçmaz – having passport number U03690406 – on June 6, 2016 via flight EY 241 at Lahore Airport, but there is no record of his departure.

Another source associated with the immigration process said the immigration formalities are required to be fulfilled if someone is being deported to any country. “However, this is not the case with deportation of Kaçmaz as the IBMS’s record reveals only his arrival details and is silent over his departure from Pakistan,” he added.

The daily has written that “Interestingly, the Interior Ministry has not issued any rebuttal of the news reports about deportation of Kaçmaz and his family.”

When The Express Tribune contacted, sources in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said immigration of any passenger falls under the purview of the Interior Ministry. They said the CAA has nothing to do with it as it only deals with issues concerning airlines’ schedule of arrival and departure at the airports.

According to a source, the flight number is needed to identify whether some flight arrived or departed from a specific airport. “As no flight number [with regard to Turk nationals] is available, the CAA can’t confirm about the landing or departure of a specific airplane,” said the source.

Meanwhile, The Nation daily has written that Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza of the Lahore High Court on Tuesday directed the CAA to submit record of a special plane, which arrived here from Turkey a couple of days ago to pick a Turkish family deported by the Pakistani government.

During the proceedings, Deputy Attorney General Imran Aziz appeared on behalf of ministries of interior and foreign affairs and said, according to available record, the Turkish family had not been deported. However, Kaçmaz family’s advocate Asma Jahangir opposed his stance, saying the Turkish government had sent a special plane to pick the deported family. She said the family was handed over to Turkish police on Pakistani soil.

According to a report by Pakistan Today daily, a contempt of court petition against the federal government for deporting a Turkish couple was accepted by the Lahore High Court on Tuesday. During Tuesday’s hearing, the petitioner’s lead counsel, Asma Jahangir, argued that the deportation amounted to contempt of court as it had taken place in violation of the court’s orders. Subsequently, the court accepted the contempt of court petition and issued notices to the Interior Ministry secretary. The CAA was also asked to submit details regarding the transfer of the Turkish couple from Islamabad to Turkey.

Following the hearing, Asma Jahangir spoke to the media and said that the couple was deported to Turkey without their passports. “The law of the jungle has prevailed in Pakistan,” Jahangir said, adding that one ruler was focused on making another happy.

Kaçmaz Family has UNHCR certificate, which is valid for November 24, 2017. Moreover, Pakistan Office of UNHCR has already extended the period of certificate for 1 more year and the documents have already been delivered to other Turkish teachers in the country.

Mesut Kaçmaz, who graduated from the Department of Urdu Language and Literature in Konya’s Selçuk University in Turkey, has been involved educational and cultural activities in Pakistan since 2007. Mesut Kaçmaz, married to Meral Kaçmaz who is a teacher like himself, is the father of two daughters.

Mesut Kaçmaz worked as the principal of the PakTurk Clifton Boys School. The school has so far passed out hundreds of graduates and represented the country successfully by receiving medals at international science olympiads. Back in 2008, the New York Times covered the constructive role of the PakTurk schools and their achievements by quoting Mr. Kaçmaz.

The witch hunt launched in 2013 in Turkey targeting the alleged followers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a massive corruption and bribery scandal of Turkish government ministers and their family members on December 17-25, 2013 has even affected Pakistan. Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan put the pressure on the Pakistani government to close the educational and cultural institutions alleged to be affiliated with the movement and to deport the Turkish citizens working in these institutions.

In November 2016, the Pakistani government did not extend the visas of these teachers and their families and ordered them to leave the country within three days. Teachers moved courts and objected the decision. During this period, they also applied to the UNHCR and were issued asylum seeker certificates placing them under the UN protection.

In May Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia and Myanmar handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request even though some of those victims already had refugee status with the UN like Kacmaz family.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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