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Pakistan To Deport Turkish Teachers With Alleged Links To Gulen Movement

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The teachers at the private PakTurk International Schools and Colleges and their families have been ordered by the Interior Ministry to leave the country by November 20 (file photo).

The teachers at the private PakTurk International Schools and Colleges and their families have been ordered by the Interior Ministry to leave the country by November 20 (file photo).

Pakistan has ordered the deportation of 130 Turkish teachers at schools with alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric Ankara blames for orchestrating a failed coup in July.

Teachers at the private PakTurk International Schools and Colleges and their families -- around 450 people, in all -- were ordered by the Interior Ministry to leave Pakistan by November 20 because their requests for visa extensions were not approved.

The crackdown on PakTurk is a big blow to the more than 10,000 students enrolled at its 28 campuses in Pakistan, where a staggering 24 million children remain out of school.

The move came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Islamabad on November 16.

During his two-day visit, Erdogan is scheduled to meet top Pakistani officials and address a joint session of parliament.

Ankara has asked Islamabad to close down any groups in the country that have links to Gulen, whose religious and social movement operates around 2,000 educational institutions in about 160 countries.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported that the Islamabad High Court has set a hearing for November 17 on a petition by PakTurk challenging the decision.

"PakTurk International Schools and Colleges are deeply concerned over the abrupt decision of the government requiring the Turkish teachers, management, and their family members...to leave the country within three days," PakTurk said in a statement posted on its website on November 16.

It added that the staff members were asked to leave because of "nonapproval of their requests for extension of visa."

"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.

PakTurk denied that it had any affiliation with Gulen or his movement. It said its schools would continue operating across Pakistan.

Pak-Turk schools and colleges were launched in 1995 under an international nongovernmental organization registered with the Turkish government.

In August, Pakistan promised to investigate PakTurk after a visit to Islamabad by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who said, "it is no secret that Gulen's organizations has institutions" in the South Asian country.

Before his departure from Ankara, Erdogan praised Pakistan's actions against what his government calls the Gulenist "terrorist" organization, saying he was "very pleased."

"Just like Turkey, Pakistan is carrying out a relentless fight against terror," he said. "Turkey supports Pakistan's battle until the end."

Turkey and Pakistan, both Sunni Muslim countries, have traditionally had close relations.

Ties have only deepened under the leadership of Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Turkey has pressured dozens of countries to clamp down on schools linked with Gulen.

Gulen, who is living in self-imposed exile in the United States, is accused by Ankara of ordering a July 15 attempted coup against Erdogan by a group of Gulen's followers within Turkey's military.

Gulen has repeatedly denied the accusation, and U.S. officials have responded to complaints from Turkish officials by saying Ankara must present compelling evidence implicating Gulen in order to consider extradition.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and Dawn
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