In a blow to civil society, Pakistan bans 27 NGOs
In a setback to its already vulnerable civil society, the Pakistan government has ordered for 29 international non-governmental organizations to shut operations and leave the country in 90 days. The government, however, failed to give any logical reason for their action. Human rights campaigners raised their voice against such blatant constraints on free speech and humanitarian work. What does this ban imply? Read on!
Which NGOs are being expelled?
The Ministry of Interior has expelled Action Aid, World Vision, Plan International, Trocaire, Pathfinder International, Danish Refugee Council, Open Society Foundations, Oxfam Novib, and Marie Stopes among others. Most NGOs, however, were not given any reason for why they were locked out.
What are the Pakistani authorities saying?
Pakistan's Minister of State for Interior Affairs, Talal Chaudhary said the reason they were shutting down these NGOs was because they were doing work "which is beyond their mandate and for which they have no legal justification". Without giving examples, he claimed that these NGOs spent all their money "on administration" and didn't do the work they were authorized to do.
How important are these NGOs to Pakistan?
As per Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, international NGOs benefit about 29mn people, provide employment to about 5,000 locals and contribute to $285m in funding for development and emergency relief. Moreover, some countries deliver aid directly to these NGOs, as they are more efficient than the government.
'After 9/11, clash in NGOs and national interest'
Chaudhary insists that the number of NGOs increased after the 9/11 attack in the US. Organizations arrived to provide humanitarian assistance after Islamabad allied with US in the latter's war on terror. He said most NGOs have been used to act against Pakistan's national interest. Interestingly, NGOs have to go through stringent registration procedures and bureaucratic hurdles to set up shop in Pakistan.
Why has this become the scenario in Pakistan?
Apparently, Pakistan has been targeting foreign NGOs since a doctor, claiming to be with 'Save the Children', helped CIA track al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden's location. Politically, after Nawaz Sharif's resignation, his party, Pakistan Muslim League, continues to rule albeit indecisively. This resulting political vacuum allows the Pakistan military to assert itself. Thus, they are hell-bent on quelling dissent and free speech.