ISLAMABAD: A school in Pakistan on Thursday called for the release of a Turkish family abducted in Lahore, amid fears they were targeted for allegedly having ties to an exiled preacher Ankara blames for last year’s coup attempt.
The family were picked up earlier this week by plain-clothed officers, according to an eyewitness, who said the group was blindfolded and bound before being loaded into trucks and taken away.
“The police officers were pushing and shoving to arrest them,” neighbour Fatih Avci, who was also briefly detained, said in a statement AFP.
The father of the family, Kacmaz Mesut, was a former director of PakTurk International Schools and Colleges, said lawyer Hamid Leghari who was petitioning the courts on behalf of the missing.
The private PakTurk International schools are allegedly backed by US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen’s Hizmet group.
Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding a coup attempt against Erdogan’s government in 2016 — an allegation the cleric strongly denies — and is seeking his extradition from the US.
“We are pressing them (Pakistan officials) to make every effort to recover the missing family as early as possible,” said PakTurk schools representative Asma Gilani, adding that the individuals had been cleared by the UN Refugee Agency to stay in Pakistan until November.
“This situation has sparked panic and uncertainty among other Turkish families living in Pakistan especially in Lahore.”
Pakistani officials refused to comment.
Last November Pakistan deported dozens of Turkish teachers tied to PakTurk schools after a visit from Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, sparking small demonstrations in major cities.—AFP