Pakistani human rights lawyer: We will go down to root of official lies in Kaçmazs’ abduction scandal

Asma Jilani Jahangir, renowned Pakistani human rights lawyer and social activist who co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the lawyer of the members of the Kaçmaz family who were abducted and deported illegally to Turkey, is adamant to clamp down the abduction and illegal deportation scandal.

Jahangir, who is widely known for playing a prominent role in the Lawyers’ Movement and serves as the trustee at the International Crisis Group, has stated over the scandal that “If the foreign and interior ministries of Pakistan do not know anything about the deportation, then who is that third person who sits here and orders everything? If there is a third party, then he must be sitting there listening to us. We also know who he is and we will not let him go.”

Kaçmaz family, who were abducted from their home at a midnight in Lahore on September 27, were deported illegally 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 (15) — 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.

Lawyer Jahangir has stated on Wednesday that “As we have already mentioned, even though the names of the kidnapped Turkish family members are added to the Exit Control List (ECL) and there are court orders to not be deported – here are the passports: this is the passport of the spouse, and these are the girls – though we have all the passports, even though there was a court order and their names were entered in the ECL, they were deported. The family was first held in Lahore, then taken to Islamabad. A private plane from Turkey came to the airport, the Turkish police stepped in Pakistan, dragged the family members into the airport and took them away.”

“I mean: Is this a country or a forest? Is it an unowned realm? Because no one is regardful of the court here, they deliver the people they want to world dictators, as they have done before…” said Jahangir and added that “This is just because there is a friendship between the leaders there and here… So we will just continue to deliver people here like a sacrificial sheep, is that so? This court today ordered the authorities and asked for the number and list of all aircraft landing in Islamabad and departing from Islamabad. The judge also ordered the CCTV footage from the airport, along with records of which private plane landed at the airport, and said he wanted to see how the family was taken.”

Jahangir has described the cruelty done to the Kaçmaz family and said that “The passengers called and told us how the girls were dragged, how they screamed and how they were taken to the plane by brutally. As soon as they reached there they were kept in jail. Right now, both the wife and the husband are in jail. They were tortured and beaten at the airport. The court did not ignore the elaboration that the family was kidnapped by the Punjab Anti-terror Department according to the information the court received and urged the senior high-ranking undersecretary of the team that we complained, to testify. We will be followers until the end of this story, we will go down to the last detail and find out who is the issuer.”

Asking that “Who is the manager who broke those court orders and suppressed his orders?” Jahangir has stated that “Moreover, according to the court order, we also gave a list of all the Turks living here in the province of Punjab; no one will be able to take any Turkish citizen, including spouses and children, out of the country without a court order. They will be given police protection and no one will be able to kidnap them because they are in police protection…”

“Let me tell you something more interesting: The Ministry of the Interior has made a statement about this issue and stated that they do not know anything about the deportation of the family,” said Jahangir and continued “Even the FIA, the Federal Intelligence Agency, is not aware of it. There is no record of the family leaving the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also stated that they do not have the same information. If these two ministries do not know anything about it, then who is that third person who sits here and orders everything? If there is a third party, then he must be sitting there listening to us. We also know who he is and we will not let him go.”

A Pakistani journalist asked Jahangir that “The media says that Kaçmaz family is deported as of the day the family was abducted, so they were deported from the country before their names were entered on the ECL. Do you have any information on that?”

Jahangir has replied that “Completely false, completely made up… The Ministry of Interior in front of all of you says that their names are on the ECL. Again, the Interior Ministry says the FIA is not even aware. Then how could this family left the country? How was the family sent when we had passports? Who took them without their passports? Whose power is enough to get people out of the country without a passports? Can you go outside the country without a passport? Can I go without a passport? As long as one of the government officials did not order it, as long as he did not say ‘take it’ how would it be possible? From which airport did they take? On which plane did they take?”

Jahangir has firmly concluded that “This has to be disclosed. At least there should be a name… What you’ve specified is a new rumor, and these kinds of lies don’t work anymore. We will go down to the root of this lie.”

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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