In the third part of our interview, educationist Mustafa Hatipoğlu narrated how the first students were enrolled in the PakTurk Schools, his teaching days and the story of the nine years he lived in Karachi.
-You were the first mentors known to the students there. Do you have any poignant memory from those days? How did you spend time together?
Different cultures prevail in each province in Pakistan. Pashtuns, Pathans, Balochs, Sindhis, Punjabis… They all have different characteristics, culture, clothing, language, and reflection on religion. At first, it was difficult to connect with students and to understand their language. We did not know their language exactly; we – neither they nor we – could speak English well, either… We communicated through the tongue of disposition most of the time. We tried to interact while playing football or eating somewhere. It’s been a long time, I do not remember all of those students, but we reconnected with some later on. They became professionals in multiple fields: doctors, engineers, teachers… Some went to Turkey and received their degrees from different universities.
-How were the first students found to be enrolled in the newly- opened school? In terms of advertising and promotion, how was it done?
First flyers had been printed I think, I’m not sure. It was tried to find students from familiar circles. That’s what happened in Quetta. A gentleman directed the children in his social circle to our school. Some of those children were relatives. Over time, it got easier. The fact we were Turkish also evoked their interest. They consider Turkey sort of European. The fact our schools were named ‘PakTurk’ also drew their attention. 2000s were the period when our schools could promote themselves in a wider sense. Thanks to intense efforts, especially from 2006 and onwards, preparations for several national and international education and project competitions, especially the International Science Olympiads, gained momentum. Thanks to the outstanding achievements of our students in various disciplines under these competitions, our schools’ visibility increased along with the number of students. Afterwards, it was no longer difficult to find students.
-Some say the people of Pakistan cherish the people of Turkey remarkably positive … Did you have any impressions about this?
One day, we invited a neighbour to our house. We take off our shoes before entering the house. When he came, we requested our neighbour to do the same. He remarked, “Oh, Turkish style!” They liked people from Turkey. This affection dates back centuries. Aid and solidarity campaigns organized with the participation of many people despite the hardships such as famine and poverty ravaging the Subcontinent and especially during the social mobilization periods in the early 20th century which later turned into the Pakistani national liberation movement led by Allama Muhammad Iqbal and two brothers, Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali Jauhar, people from all walks of life donated their jewellery and money to the cause of supporting the people in Anatolia who struggled on different fronts. Such campaigns were promoted in conventions held in several venues across the Subcontinent. The aid Turkey has been providing to Pakistan, both as a state and as a nation, in natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes makes this time-tested love and affection even stronger.
-Did you teach immediately after graduating from university? What did you do?
In 1999, I and my three friends graduated from the university. Mr. Halit Esendir, who was the director general of our schools invited us to his house and said he wished we should work as teachers. When I said I did not want to be a teacher he said “Then I will take you to work with me.” Back then, we used to print and distribute textbooks and library books for schools and students. We also used to sell textbooks to the regional countries. I worked that way for about a year.
THEY WERE FROM THE INTELLIGENCE
Something interesting happened. Three or four local people raided our office during daylight. They kept on asking for something from a Pakistani colleague who visited us. The raiders rummaged through the drawers and the paperwork in the cabinets. That colleague could not understand what the men wanted at first. “Let me call our director general Mr. Halit!” he said. A retired major from the Pakistan Army used to work as an advisor for our workplace on official matters. When we tried to contact him, the raiders suddenly rushed towards the exit. We got suspicious and chased them. Meanwhile, we also contacted the police, because we could not quite understand who those men were and what they wanted. I followed them on my motorcycle. They walked through narrow streets and got into a car. We reported the license plate of the car to the police officers. At an exit of Islamabad, the police caught them. While taking statements from those people at the police station, we also witnessed that the police were coercive. One raider was said to work for the Turkish intelligence, one was from the local police, one was a teacher, and the other was the teacher’s friend. Mr. Halit said, “I know two of them only.” They were brothers; one of them was released, at least. We experienced such a thing. I guess that was the end of it all. I don’t know what happened next. I moved to Karachi by mid-2000.
-What was your duty in Karachi?
After Islamabad, a new school was opened in Karachi in 1997. Many businessmen and traders used to visit Karachi from Turkey for trade. I both worked as a teacher and attended those businessmen. I used to take classes in the primary school in the mornings. Afterwards, I used to welcome incoming businessmen at the airport, show them around the city, interpret for them and take them to local businesses and companies. During this process, I could learn Urdu and improve my English. I acquired a social and business circle there. I still keep in touch with some businessmen from Karachi. We introduced the Turkish businessmen to their Pakistani counterparts and assisted them in forging lucrative and reliable trade relations.
A wealthy gentleman from Turkey had sent money to a Pakistani businessman to be distributed among the earthquake affectees. The Pakistani businessman phoned me and said, “No one else can spend this money for the benefit of those who deserve it.” There were those who displayed such trust, love and respect for us. Those who knew us knew so. Those who do not know often talk about the Ottoman Empire and especially Turkey as the country where the last caliph had lived. This can also be stated as a source of love and interest originating from a shared history.
-What differences did you observe in terms of practising Islam? May you quote some of your experiences?
Let me explain this as an example: There was a very beautiful mosque right across the street from our school in Karachi. One day I wished to recite the adhan myself. I asked a representative at the mosque. “But you don’t have a beard!” he said. He didn’t even let me just recite the adhan. Some were very fixated with beards and moustaches. Sometimes, they glaringly noticed if one’s shalwar was pulled up over the heel. I do not remember they said much to those who did not wear shalwar-kameez, but I witnessed some who were fervent about certain issues. Yet, those who practiced their faith did so commendably decent. During the month of Ramadan, the tarawih prayers are offered with khatm-e-Qur’an in every mosque and everyone participates, whether or not they are children or elderly. Even in smaller mosques, the tarawih is performed with khatm-e-Qur’an. People in Pakistan are devoted to not to abandon obligatory prayers. They perform the tarawih with 20 rak’ahs through khatm-e-Qur’an, and stand up to perform another 20 rak’ahs of supererogatory prayers by themselves. They have such keenness for worship. In Ramadan, they work for 2-3 hours, return home, engage in worship and recite the Qur’an thoroughly until iftar. Everyone brings iftari (snacks for breaking fast) to mosques. Even if they have food ready in their houses, they also form fast-breaking circles in mosques and outdoors. This is very exquisite. They are fervent about some things, and there are things they do not know. Signs with the names of Allah are hung on poles in the streets, especially on the main roads, to encourage those who see them to recite. In cities and towns, you can encounter some who do not care for environmental cleanliness as we are used to. The exact reason is not known, and although it is stated in several places that “Cleanliness is half of faith”, unfortunately, there are also some who pay little attention to the essence of this hadith.
I ALSO WORE TOO MANY HATS IN KARACHI
– If the tarawih prayers are performed with khatm-e-Qur’an in all mosques, it means there are proficient people for this, right?
Yes, there are madrasas. They teach there. For example, my children learned to recite the Qur’an and learned basic religious knowledge from a person who regularly visited our downstairs neighbour from the madrasah. Teachers from the surrounding mosques and madrasas used to visit houses to teach children.
-How is Karachi as compared to Islamabad? Are there any differences in terms of social life, environment, and schools?
Islamabad is the capital, but when I lived there, it resembled an Anatolian city with a population of 500,000 at most. Karachi is a port city with a population of 20 million. You realize how complicated a city this crowded is and how difficult it is to supervise. There are people from all ethnic groups. The whole commercial life of Pakistan runs from there. If you have a small office and a desk in Karachi, you can do business well. People from all parts of Pakistan live there. In addition, there is a substantial population of ‘mohajirs’, immigrants who moved to Pakistan from India after the Partition in 1947. You know, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan used to be one country for a while. They later split. That’s why people seem like the people of a single state. Their lifestyles differ just because they are Muslims. There are many areas where cultures converge. For example, Indian movies have a popular following. Their languages resemble one another but have different alphabets.
-How long did you live in Karachi? What changes did you have in your life?
Mr. Halit Esendir works with his colleagues 7 days and 48 hours, not 7 days and 24 hours. He assigned me many tasks. I started as a teacher, but I was also busy attending visitors. I used to teach Islamiyat in the primary school. I knew Urdu and I also knew the city. Every school principal would say, “Mr. Mustafa is already fulfilling these tasks, let him stay here.” With that said, I remained in Karachi for 9 years. Besides educational furniture and materials for schools, sometimes humanitarian aid materials used to arrive in containers from Turkey. My landlord was a customs officer. This is why Mr. Halit entrusted the customs affairs, kidding me by saying, “Hacı, you’d better not vacate this house; you may also follow the customs tasks from here”. After a short while, I learned from my landlord how to follow the official procedures, and I received the incoming educational and humanitarian aid materials from the customs.
BUSINESSMEN WOULD STAY IN OUR GUESTHOUSE INSTEAD OF HOTELS
In 2004, I focused entirely on public relations. Earlier, I had been quite overwhelmed, I used to say, “I will leave this country”. Thanks to Mr. İsmail Nazlı, a very understanding person, who had come to Karachi from Islamabad to talk. He said “I came just for you”. I will never forget this sentence. It showed he valued me. He was sitting in the armchair, and I was sitting on the floor next to him. He got up and sat down next to me. He listened to what I said. We bared our hearts a little. Then he left the room. He said to other friends there, “Mr. Mustafa will do public relations work from now on.” He also charted a separate job description for me by telling our principal, Mr. Âdem, “Mr. Mustafa will take his classes regularly in mornings, and he will later follow up with his other tasks”. Public relations helped us acquire a wider circle.
We did not have a place like a guesthouse there. Numerous trade fairs were held in Pakistan. When businessmen from Turkey sought help from the embassy or consulate, they were often referred to us. The authorities would say, “There are Turkish Schools there, they will help you.” Besides businessmen we knew, people I had not met before arrived and asked me to act as interpreter and show them around Karachi. In return, they gave donations. In this way, we established friendships and acquired a circle. Eventually, we opened an exquisite guesthouse in Karachi in 2004. Previously, we had thought, ‘Should we found a businessmen’s association?’
Then the idea that a guesthouse would assume a much more important function gained weight. We decided to have an office of our businessmen association there. We rented a two-story house in a wealthy neighbourhood where embassies and consulates too were located. The house had marble tiles throughout. While furnishing the interior, we had the furniture custom-made by a furniture maker we knew, so we managed costs at a more affordable price. We had set up a hotel-style system with a capacity to host 20 people simultaneously. The guests who arrived from abroad were enough to cover the expenses. They used to donate to the guesthouse the amount they would otherwise pay to a hotel. A Turkish businessman visited Pakistan frequently; he had air conditioners installed in all rooms. He used to say, “I’d rather give money here than to luxury hotels.” He would also bring from Turkey products such as cheese and olives which we could not find in Pakistan. Every time he arrived, he would call while he was at the airport and say, “Let’s go to the market and get whatever we need for the guesthouse.”
We used that space four or five days a week for various business and socio-cultural events. Only I would have had three or four programs attended by both Pakistanis and Turks… Turks living in Karachi for work would also support our centre. It was also a meeting point. Pakistani businessmen used to meet at our guesthouse and hold their meetings there instead of going to hotels. This was the situation. I don’t know how it continued after I left Karachi in 2009.
To be continued…