Educationist Sadullah Bayazit wrote about the emigration of Abdülgani Gülmez, whom he met in Turkey in the 90s while he was getting prepared for going to Pakistan and who, in a sense, was his “friend in fate”. In the second part are the exciting Pakistani visa process and the flight to Karachi.
We had received acceptance from the Islamabad International Islamic University following the positive reception to our applications. A friend who had facilitated us from Pakistan throughout the application process sent us our acceptance letters by hand so that we could apply for the study visa faster. Having received our letters, we immediately prepared our suitcases to go to Ankara with a little hurry. We were five people, two from Gaziantep and three from Kahramanmaraş. As friends from Kahramanmaraş, we decided to go to Gaziantep and travel from there to Ankara in one group. We drove to Gaziantep. I and my brother were to go to Pakistan together. My father was very emotional as he watched his two boys leave the house.
We had first met when friends Abdülgani and Hanifi had visited the dormitory where I had been working in Kahramanmaraş. That was the beginning of our adventurous partnership that would continue forever. When I had first seen Abdulgani, he had left on me an impression of a frowning but calm and extremely modest dervish-like person.
A negative response from the Embassy
We all met in Gaziantep and went to the Embassy of Pakistan in Ankara together. The official at the Embassy told us, “You will not be able to get any visa with your hand-delivered documents, because the University has still not sent us any official letter.” We went to the Ministry of National Education and requested the officials to include us in the private overseas students scheme. They too declined our request. Having received negative responses from both parties, we were then stranded. We looked forward to receiving the next response from the Embassy of Pakistan.
We would go to the Kuğulu Park situated near the Embassy every morning and sit on the benches until evening. Within days, we came to the know the frequenters of the park, and we could predict who would arrive at what time. For example, those who walked the dogs from the embassies would show up around 9 or 10 in the morning. In the afternoon, officers and couriers would come to rest and eat their snacks. Mothers would bring their children to the playground during the cool afternoon, retirees would take brisk walks, and the residents of the neighbourhood would come for a walk or jog after work. Yet oddly enough, most of the simit vendors there would claim they were from Çorum!
A madrassa under a mosque!
One day, one of the attachés from the Embassy of Pakistan sent us a message through a Turkish member of staff: “The letters you carry are authentic, but we need to receive the same through official channels. The time the official cover letter reaches us, we will stamp your passports with visas without delay. We are unable to issue you any visa without receiving the letter from the University.” Some friends had told us we would have travelled to Pakistan on tourist visas. We had also heard from elsewhere the claim that the Turkish government authorities termed our prospective university as ‘a madrassa under a mosque’. We could not help but think “Is this the real reason why our visas are delayed?”
Actually, that claim confused us enough. We were told it was ‘an international university that had followed bilingual instruction’ and so we were insisting on having ourselves admitted there. Despite that unfounded claim, we did not lose our faith in following our objective.
If you go there on a tourist visa, you will come back for sure!
When, in order not to miss the admission period, we insisted at the Embassy in the days that followed, the officials were annoyed. One of the Embassy staff said to us, “If you chose to go there on a tourist visa, you will be compelled to return to Turkey with the expiry of your visa. You will also endeavour here to get another visa.” It was a Wednesday and we were at the Embassy once again. We waited on Thursday and Friday as well. The erstwhile Turkish prime minister was Necmettin Erbakan and he was to embark on an official tour to Pakistan during those days. The officials at the Embassy of Pakistan were occupied by the protocol of that official visit for a couple of days. While waiting for our visas, the results of the university selection and placement examination was announced. My brother, who qualified to be placed in the Ankara University School of Theology, told me, “I gave up the idea of going to Pakistan.”
We could readily recognize all of the dogs the park!
The head office of the PakTurk Schools in Islamabad sent us letters of reference and we applied for our visas on Monday with those letters. On the same day, we received our tourist visas from the Embassy of Pakistan. Meanwhile, during those five days spent in the open, we could also readily recognize all of the dogs which were brought into the Kuğulu Park for their walks. 😊 We also knew all trees across the park by heart. Having received our visas, we took a bus to Istanbul.
Saying, “I am returning from here,” my brother left us at the airport. We also had another friend who would come with us to Pakistan. Even though we searched for him around the terminal building, we could not meet him. The person who assisted us in Istanbul and purchased our tickets also accompanied us until the passport control. We also managed to meet our friend, whom we could not find in the terminal, on the plane. As mentioned earlier by the Embassy of Pakistan officials, we returned to Turkey six months later to renew our visas. Meanwhile, we also did not miss the admission period in Pakistan.
I have to decipher this ‘silent and calm’ friend
On August 15, 1996, we took wings from the Istanbul Ataturk International Airport to a land which we had heard earlier but did not know at all. In those years, the Turkish Airlines had a direct flight to Karachi only. It was the monsoon season and it was extremely humid there. Not to mention the dense population… That was not our final stop; we were to take a connecting flight. We still had some time until our next domestic flight.
During our journey, I tried to use every opportunity to know Abdülgani, who impressed me with his ‘silent and calm’ disposition, and said to myself, “I have to decipher this friend!” Only then I managed to understand he was solemn by nature: He did not flare up easily and he was an easy-going young man. I started working on founding our long-lasting friendship…
To be continued…