COMMENTARY – AHMET DONMEZ
The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision of declaring the Gülen Movement as a terrorist outfit has once again revealed the facts of politics, interest-based international relations and how the long arms of Erdoğan operate.
It seems that the Pakistani judiciary, which has until recently strived to fulfil the requirements of law despite political pressures, could not persist any longer. Moreover, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar’s visit to Turkey before the decision should not be ignored. Nisar arrived in Ankara on December 16 on official invitation of the President of the Constitutional Court of Turkey Zühtü Arslan. Pakistani Chief Justice was received by President Tayyip Erdoğan on December 17. On the same day, he also attended to the commemorative Shab-e-Aroos ceremony in Konya along with Erdoğan. Ten days after, Nisar’s decision against the Gülen Movement was announced.
The only motion before decision was not this. The process had started on December 3. Pakistani advocate Muhammad Suhail Sajid personally submitted a plea to the Supreme Court of Pakistan and demanded that the Gülen Movement should be declared as a terrorist organization. Right after two days, the first hearing was made and the Chief Justice Nisar favored Sajid’s demand. According to the statement given by Sajid to the Anatolian News Agency, the Chief Justice Nisar asked the Attorney General of Pakistan, “Do you consider our relations with brotherly country Turkey as a joke? Why can’t you still solve this schools’ issue?” He also emphasized that the issue is very delicate for the bilateral relations and must be solved.
Before the final decision announced on December 28, Mian Saqib Nisar was invited to Turkey. He was personally received by Erdoğan. We do not know the contents of their discussion. While the Chief Justice of Pakistan was in Turkey, the Turkish Minister for Interior Süleyman Soylu was in Islamabad. Soylu called on Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and the State Minister for Interior Shehryar Afridi. Right after that visit, on December 20, Islamabad hosted Turkish Minister for National Defense Hulusi Akar. Akar called on 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 separately.
On Friday, December 28, Nisar’s judgment was announced. Interestingly, the decision coincided with the home stretch of Nisar’s retirement. Nisar will be retired on January 17, 2019. He will be replaced by Asif Saeed Khan Khosa as the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Having sworn in during Nisar’s visit to Turkey and deputized him in his absence, Khosa was not mentioned in the three-member panel of judges in the original jurisdiction document.
Speaking to the press in Istanbul on the day of the decision, President Tayyip Erdoğan said: “This of course has a great significance. As you know, shortly before, during the Shab-e-Aroos ceremony, the Chief Justice was here with us in Konya. However, during the Constitutional Courts Summit we held in Istanbul on the same day, the forthcoming Chief Justice of Pakistan too expressed the same to us and it materialized. That is, he too expressed and conceded that FETO is a terrorist organization. Indeed, the ensuing process is the issue of handing over those closed institutions to our foundation.”
COURTS WOULD RESIST POLITICS
Supreme Court of Pakistan and the high courts across the country used to balance the political decisions of politicians with their decisions favoring the stance of the Gülen Movement. Now, in the current circulation, it is not known what was discussed, how they were pressured or what the promises were.
Some of the earlier court decisions are as follows:
Alamgir Khan, Chairman of the PakTurk Education Foundation (PTEF) under which auspices the PakTurk schools operate, moved the Islamabad High Court on December 14, 2016 after the excessive pressures of the Turkiye Maarif Foundation, which runs under Erdoğan’s auspices. That was because the Ministry of Interior Affairs had taken the decision of appointing 4 executives to the PTEF’s Board of Directors in line with Turkey’s demands. Those four executives were favored by the Maarif Foundation. Time after time, Alamgir Khan was summoned to the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) in Lahore and was threatened to quit his post as the Chairman. In his petition to the court, Khan claimed that CTD officials coerced him with threats to resign from his post and also started an investigation to harass him.
Islamabad High Court sent notices to the IGP Punjab and the high-ranking officers of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and warned the officials not to coerce him by any offer, harassment or pressure.
Islamabad High Court gave a final decision on March 17, 2017 about the issue of seizing PakTurk schools. Stating that it is out of question for the State to confiscate a private enterprise, the Court rejected the confiscation plea and turned down Maarif Foundation’s demand to partake in the case. In addition, the Court suspended the powers of the four pro-government executives appointed to the Board of Directors.
Courts gave significant decisions during the abduction ordeal of Turkish teachers by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT). For instance, there were consecutive positive decisions before the abduction of Mesut Kaçmaz and his family. After the midnight abduction of the Kaçmaz family from their home and during their captivity in an undisclosed location, Lahore High Court (LHC) gave a decision on September 28, 2017. LHC Chief Judge Shams Mahmood Mirza stopped the Federal Government from deporting Mesut Kaçmaz and ordered him and the family to be produced before the court by October 6. The judge also ordered finding the perpetrators of the abduction.
During the hearing on October 6, Lahore High Court ordered the authorities to produce Kaçmaz family within two weeks before the court. Extending the deport ban for all stranded Turkish educationists in Pakistan, Judge Shams Mehmood Mirza adjourned the hearing to October 16 until the family would be found.
Lahore High Court gave another significant decision on October 10. Deliberating the plea submitted by a Turkish teacher named O.U, the court suspended the deportation of all families under the UNHCR protection. In addition, the court ordered an additional case to be opened to find and recover the Kaçmaz family.
The court proscribed the government from harassing the Turkish staff and teachers and beckoned them to protect the Turkish families. In addition, it ordered that the names of the Turkish educationists should be placed in the Exit Control List (ECL) to prevent any deportation. The court demanded a detailed explanation until the next hearing on October 16 about the condition of the Kaçmaz family.
However, two days short of this hearing, on October 14, Kaçmaz family would be handed to the Turkish intelligence and slipped out of Pakistan illegally. The LHC decision was blatantly bypassed.
Lahore High Court had also deliberated the plea submitted by another Turkish teacher named M.E. whose house was raided on October 2, 2017 to abduct him. The court had stopped the deportations of M.E and the Kaçmaz family. Judge Shams Mahmood Mirza had appointed a deputy chief public prosecutor to ensure that no deportation takes place until the final jurisdiction.
The erstwhile legal counsel of the Kaçmaz family, renowned human rights icon Advocate Asma Jahangir (late) talked to the press on October 16, 2017 in front of the Lahore High Court after the deportation of the family. Jahangir accused the government for implementing ‘jungle rules’. Slamming the surrender of the family to the Turkish intelligence despite the LHC ruling, the renowned advocate said, “Is this a country or a jungle? Is this an unclaimed land? For, no one cares for the court decisions here, they hand over whoever they wish to the dictators of the world, just as they had done earlier… This happened only because the ruler there has friendship with the rulers here… So, we will keep on surrendering people to them as if they are sacrificial lambs, won’t we?”
SCHOOLS HAVE A PAST OF ALMOST A QUARTER OF A CENTURY IN PAKISTAN
PakTurk Schools have a past of 23 years in Pakistan. Having started in 1995 with their first school in Islamabad, PakTurk educational institutions grew up to 28 branches in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Multan, Karachi, Hyderabad, Khairpur Mirs, Jamshoro and Quetta. PakTurk Schools participated in educational and science competitions in 97 countries and bagged 260 international awards and medals. A total of 11,000 pre-school to college level (K-12) students have educated in these schools, which passed out approximately 3000 graduates so far. The schools have spearheaded numerous innovations in education across Pakistan such as the Inter-School Maths Olympiad (ISMO) and International Language Olympiads.