Turkish teacher Doğan Yücel wrote how and under what conditions the PakTurk branch in Lahore Raiwind Road, which had opened its doors to education in 2007, was built.
Initially, plots searched in the neighbourhoods around our existing school buildings, but no suitable plot could be found. Eventually, a plot could be found near Thokar Niaz Baig, a district in the outskirts of the city upcoming for urban development. A synchronicity of fate, a Turkish school would be built centuries later at a point near this district named after a historic Turkish figure. The school plot was adjacent to the land of late Khalid Maqbool, the Governor of the Punjab province between 2001 and 2008.
Businessmen from Ankara visited Lahore in the winter at the beginning of 2006 and toured the plot. The architect of the Ulusoy Colleges in Ankara too was in the entourage. Studying the indigenous architecture in Lahore, this architect prepared the prospective school building’s drawings. Businessmen from Ankara pledged to cover half of the construction cost.
According to the British system, the land belongs to the state
After the plot was purchased in the summer of 2006, the official businesses had to be completed before the start of construction. Applications were filed to the Lahore Development Authority for works such as the registration of the social facilities on the plot. After obtaining the permits, the documents were forwarded to the land registry and cadastre directorate in Pakistan, registering the construction permits and land transfers. The respective patwari (chief land registrar) extracted the map of this newly-developing area of Lahore from Lahore’s old large map archives dating to the British Raj period, and registered the transfer of the plot. In Pakistan, according to the cadastre system inherited from the British, all lands are considered belonging to the state. Plots are divided into three categories as belonging to the treasury, military and municipality. There is no issuing of title deeds to individuals. People usually receive land from the government, municipality or military on lease for 49 years and build buildings on it. In addition, areas for residential and social facilities (commercial, religious, cultural, etc.) are strictly allotted in Pakistan. No business can be opened in residential areas. However, residences can be leased and repurposed into institutions like hospitals and schools used in social services. While social service areas like schools, hospitals and religious buildings can be operated on lease in residences, businesses cannot be done so.
Construction started in November 2006
The respective land registry official was taken to Turkey for a tour of our sister schools there to expedite the deed transactions. The gentleman was briefed about the PakTurk Schools’ objectives in education. Impressed by the schools he toured; the land registrar expedited the procedures that would normally take a few months on his return to Turkey. With some persistence, he facilitated the completion of the survey and measurements of the plot. The project was finally approved. However, due to the lack of sufficient financing, constructing roof designs and the basements under the two blocks were cancelled. Additional revisions were made to reduce construction costs.
Constructing the new school campus, spanning over 34 kanals of plot purchased by the PakTurk Cag Education Foundation on the Raiwind Road, started around the end of November 2006. The construction was scheduled to be completed in nearly nine months. The ground-breaking ceremony was attended by Governor Punjab Khalid Maqbool as the Chief Guest with Punjab Minister for Education Mian Imran Masood and Minister for Excise and Tax Dr. Shafique Chaudhry guests of honour, some cabinet ministers of the Punjab province, late Mian Tajammal Hussain, Honorary Consul of Turkey in Lahore, Pakistani and Turkish businessmen, academics, and a large group of parents and students. The first mortar was placed on the foundation, accompanied by prayers. We have hoped precious generations to receive education from this school and serve Pakistan in their careers. Meanwhile, our school constructions started in Islamabad and Peshawar in February 2007 and in Quetta in September 2007.
Punjab Chief Minister Sharif commissioned the dual carriageway
With the start of the new academic year in April 2007, we moved our school from Gulberg to Raiwind Road. We transported some of the school items in trucks. We had received new school supplies from Turkey; so, our foundation donated educational materials like student desks from our old school building to the education foundation of a businessman we knew.
When we went to see that plot for the first time, I had a few Pakistani friends with me. The road seemed too long for me and it was far from the downtown. The single carriageway was later upgraded. The summer house of Nawaz Sharif, the elder brother of Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, was a few kilometres away from the school plot. When Shahbaz Sharif became the Chief Minister of the Punjab province, he got the road upgraded to a dual carriageway extending from the Canal Road to the junction where our school building was located. This road had been planned as a dual carriageway many years ago in the Lahore Master Plan. This was how the road to our school became smoothly paved.
When we opened the doors of the school in April 2007, we were also in a hurry to find students. The contractor was yet to fulfil the promised construction. We had told the parents that the school would be ready on time, but we had only one block ready for education. The school’s garden needed landscaping. Students had to enter the school through a scaffolding tunnel surrounded with the sand and gravel in the construction site. We covered the top of the scaffolded entrance with sheet metal against any falling pieces from the construction above.
To be continued…
Part Seventeen: The days we went to maternity check-ups on rickshaws …