PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has suspended a federal government order for Turkish teachers of the Pak-Turk School and College, Peshawar, and their families to leave the country, and ruled that those foreigners could stay in the country until the UNHCR decided their asylum applications.

A bench consisting of Justice Roohul Amin Khan Chamkani and Justice Syed Afsar Shah disposed of two petitions filed by five Turkish teachers and their families and some parents of students enrolled in the Pak-Turk school, asking the law-enforcement agencies, including Federal Investigation Agency, not to act against the teachers and their families.

The petitioners, including Orphan Arthar, advocate Shah Mohammad and others, said if the teachers and their families were expelled or extradited to Turkey, they would face persecution on political grounds.

The bench ruled that the Turkish petitioners and their families were entitled to remain in Pakistan until such time as their asylum applications remained pending with the UNHCR.

Rules those foreigners can stay in country until UNHCR decision on their asylum pleas

Qazi Mohammad Anwar, lawyer for the petitioners, said the Pak-Turk Educational Foundation, which had been running the Pak-Turk schools in the country, had submitted an application to the federal interior ministry for visa extension for the staffers and their family members who had been serving in 26 branches across the country.

He said the foundation had been informed that their request for visa extension would be considered at appropriate level but it had not been acceded through a letter issued on Nov 11, 2016.

The lawyer added that soon thereafter, another letter was received by the foundation from the interior ministry stating that all Turkish nationals, whose visa extension was regretted, were directed to leave the country within three days before Nov 20, 2016.

He said several Turkish teachers of Pak-Turk School System including the petitioners had approached the UNHCR seeking asylum as they feared their persecution if deported to Turkey. The lawyer said the UNHCR had been considering their applications and had also issued certificates to them on basis of which they should not be expelled from the country till decision on those applications.

He said the order of the interior ministry was also challenged in the Sindh High Court but the petition was disposed and since that judgment was not challenged in the Supreme Court, it had attained finality.

The lawyer said the SHC had ruled that the Turkish petitioners and their families must be given a chance to explain their position for an extension in their visas to the federal government. He added that the court maintained that if the federal government was inclined to confirm the letters of Nov 11 and Nov 14, 2016, it must give some written explanation as to why this was so.

He feared that Turkish teachers would be victimised on return.

He said the teachers had requested the UNHCR to provide protection to them by giving them asylum in any other country.

The petitioners had said the decision of not extending visa at this juncture in an abrupt manner would be of devastating consequences to large number of students studying in 26 schools across Pakistan including children of the petitioners.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2018

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