Pakistan is under renewed pressure from Turkish authorities to shut down educational institutions in the country and other business concerns run by Fethullah Gulen, the alleged mastermind of last week’s failed coup plot in Turkey.
Officials in Islamabad revealed Saturday they have been “for sometime examining options” for administrative actions against the Gulen-linked educational group.
But Ankara has apparently stepped up the pressure since the abortive coup.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed followers of the U.S.-based cleric for the rebellion and has demanded for his extradition, though Gulen has denied his involvement and Washington has asked for evidence.
“Turkey is a friendly country and we should accommodate their concerns within the ambit of law and propriety," a senior Pakistani foreign ministry official told VOA on condition of anonymity when asked whether Islamabad is considering Turkish demands.
Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades. The network is called PAKTURK International Schools and Colleges.
In addition to separate business entities, Gulen also has established a branch of his so-called Rumi Forum in the country. It is a think tank platform for promoting intercultural and intellectual dialogue by inviting Turkish scholars to deliver lectures in Pakistani universities and arranging such activities in Turkey for Pakistani counterparts.
The Pakistani official admitted there could be challenges stemming from a complete closure of Gulen’s education-related institutions in the country but he expressed hope “an appropriate solution” will be found.
“What we need is for the Turks to identify a company which will take over these schools. Closure of schools can harm the studies of students. So a change of management is a better option,” noted the Pakistani official noted.
His remarks came a day after Turkish Ambassador Sadik Babur said that Gulen’s group has a “big presence in Pakistan” and Ankara has called on “all friendly countries to prevent its activities.”
He told a group of reporters in Islamabad Turkey was in close contact with Pakistani officials and “we have had good cooperation in every field.”
Under President Erdogan, Turkey’s traditionally friendly relations with Pakistan have deepened and expanded.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif swiftly condemned the botched coup in what he referred to as the brotherly country of Turkey, expressing expressed Pakistan’s “complete support and solidarity” with Erdogan.
In a bid to distance it self from the Turkish coup attempt, the Gulen-linked educational network, denied "any affiliation or connection with any political individual or any movement" in Turkey.
A message published on the group's website says it is a “philanthropic and non-political endeavor” organized and established for human development in the field of education in Pakistan.
Critics have also noted that the Rumi Forum this week removed Gulen’s name from the page where it has published the chairman’s message, suggesting rising local pressure against the group.