LAHORE: The government seems ready to oblige the Turkish government in deciding the fate of PakTurk schools as an official of the Foreign Office says relations with the brother Islamic country demand that its concerns are addressed at all costs.

“We’re discussing various options to guide the provinces how to handle the issue,” the official told Dawn on Monday.

“Though we haven’t received a formal request yet from Ankara (regarding the educational institutions run by the PakTurk Foundation), the deep relations with Turkey demand that we don’t look out for formalities (of written requests) and remove her concerns on priority at all costs.”

Seeking to allay concerns of parents of the students enrolled with these educational institutions, he said the interest of the students would be taken care of while devising any policy on the issue.

Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhud admits it’s a complicated issue but another senior member of the provincial cabinet believes they have more than one solutions to save future of the students while satisfying concerns of the Turkish government.

“It’s difficult to make a decision as the problem has multiple aspects,” Mashhud says, adding they are awaiting a direction from the federal government.

Another Punjab minister, however, sees no difficulty in tackling the issue and claims to have many options as soon as Islamabad gives a policy.

The foundation running these educational institutions may be asked to disown its links, if any, with the Gulen movement and suspend all activities that may give an impression of its association with the Turk politics, he says, requesting not to be named as he is not directly related with the education department.

The ownership of the institutions may also be changed and even the government may take over the same as some of the institutions were earlier being run by the state, he adds.

The PakTurk Foundation has on its website denied having any political, religious or denominational and financial links with any movement.

An official of the foundation told Dawn that the organization had already changed its nomenclature and removed the word “international” from its name when the issue of international NGOs cropped up around a year ago.

Replying to a query, he admitted that Fethullah Gulen’s books are distributed among the educational institutions’ staff for their “personal consumption” but in no way the students are taught about the Gulen or any other political figure’s philosophy.

But he hastens to add that these books published by an Islamabad-based publisher are available in the open market.

He says that the foundation is strictly adhering to all rules and regulations and law of the land in every respect.

There are 28 institutions being run by the foundation in Pakistan. It is also planning to establish a university.

Some of the institutions have been handed over by the government, and buildings of some others have been given by various housing societies, while others are run by funds from philanthropists from Pakistan and abroad.

The Turkish ambassador’s call for action against these educational institutions this weekend has sent a wave of concern among parents of around 11,000 students as well as the staff.

Anxious staff members are contacting each other to know the latest situation and discuss their future. One of them told Dawn that they were planning to come on roads along with parents of students if the government decided to shut the institutions.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2016