By Aamir Latif
Pakistan will “fully cooperate” over Turkey’s demands for the closure of schools linked to Fetullah Gulen, the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad said Monday.
U.S.-based preacher Gulen, who has a global network of businesses and educational institutions, is accused by Turkey of being behind the July 15 attempted coup.
“Pakistan will fully cooperate with Turkey to address its reservations regarding educational and business institutions being run by Fetullah Gulen and his associates in Pakistan,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria told Anadolu Agency.
Last week, Ankara officially requested that Pakistan shut down dozens of schools, colleges and businesses it alleged were run by Gulen’s movement.
“Different options are under consideration to deal with this issue,” Zakaria said. “There are thousands of students studying at these schools -- that’s why we need some time to come up with a practicable solution.
“But one thing is for sure, the reservations of the Turkish government will definitely be addressed.”
Reiterating Islamabad’s support for Turkey, he added: “Pakistan unequivocally stands alongside Turkey’s democratic institutions.”
Asked if thought was being given to handing control of the institutions to Turkey, Zakaria said he could not give a definitive answer “at this stage”.
Gulen’s movement allegedly operates 28 schools and colleges under the control of the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges network in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Hyderabad, Quetta, Jamshoro and Khairpur.
Around 10,000 students attend the schools, which have a staff of roughly 1,500 teaching and non-teaching members.
In a statement on its website, the network said: “We are deeply concerned by allegations made by a certain section [on] social media trying to connect the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges in Pakistan with Mr. Fethullah Gulen or the political movement ascribed to him in wake of the recent unfortunate and reprehensible events in Turkey.
“We do unequivocally clarify that the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges in Pakistan have no affiliation or connection with any political individual or any movement or organization, whether political, religious or denominational, nor do we have a financial relationship with any movement.”