Pakistan has ordered the deportation of 130 teachers affiliated with the alleged mastermind of an attempted coup in Turkey, officials said Wednesday, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was to arrive for a visit.
The teachers from the private PakTurk International Schools and Colleges, backed by US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen’s Hizmet group, will have to leave Pakistan along with other school staff and their families by November 20, school and government officials confirmed.
The decision -- hailed by Erdogan as “pleasing” -- affects up to 450 people in total and will be a blow to thousands of students in Pakistan, where government figures say a staggering 24 million children remain out of school.
The deportations “show how much importance Pakistan attaches to this effort”, Erdogan told reporters at the airport before departing for Islamabad on Wednesday for a two-day visit.
He is scheduled to meet the country’s top leadership, address a joint session of parliament and visit the cultural capital of Lahore.
Turkey accuses Gulen of ordering a failed coup in July, during which a rogue military faction tried to oust Erdogan from power. The country’s justice minister has compared the cleric to slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Gulen strongly denies the accusations.
Ankara has called for the US to extradite him and expressed impatience as American authorities study the evidence provided by Turkey before arriving at a decision.
In a statement posted on the official PakTurk International Schools and Colleges website, the administration expressed deep concern over the “abrupt decision”.
The statement said requests to extend visas for the teachers, school management and their families had been denied.
“We want to ensure the students and their parents that educational activities at all branches of PakTurk educational institutions across Pakistan are continuously operational,” the statement said.
A PakTurk official in Islamabad told AFP the decision would affect around 10,000 students in 28 schools and colleges around the country.
The school management have already been replaced by local staff, the official said, speaking anonymously.
A senior government official in Islamabad confirmed the deportation of Turkish staff by November 20.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim thanked “brotherly country Pakistan” for the decision.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said Erdogan will be accompanied by a high-level entourage, including ministers and senior officials, as well as a large business delegation.