Pakistan closes 27 NGOs

Friday, 22 December 2017

Pakistan has ordered 27 international aid groups to conclude operations for doing work 'beyond mandate'.

Country's Interior Affairs Minister Talal Chaudhury said the reason for shutting down the NGOs was because they were doing work in Pakistan “which is beyond their mandate and for which they have no legal justification”.

The ministry gave the 27 NGOs 90 days to conclude operations.

The expelled NGOs include Action Aid, World Vision, Plan International, Trocaire, Pathfinder International, Danish Refugee Council, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, Oxfam Novib, and Marie Stopes.

Minister Talal Chaudhury declined to give specific examples, says Reuters on Friday.

But he said the targeted NGOs spend “all their money” on administration.

"They are not doing the work they said they were doing, and are working in areas where they were not authorised," Talal said.

Chaudhry said the number of NGOs in the country ballooned after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

According to the minister, many organisations arrived to provide humanitarian assistance after Islamabad allied itself with the United States in what was then known as the global war on terror. 

“But there were also a number of NGOs that are used, knowingly or unknowingly for activities that conflict with Pakistan’s national interests,” Chaudhry said.

The minister also said that registration procedures are commonplace in other countries.

Pakistan has hardened its stance towards domestic and international NGOs in recent years, requiring them to undertake a painstaking registration process and clear multiple bureaucratic hurdles to continue working in the country.

The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF) said the ministry had issued 11 of its members “letters of rejection”.

All of them said they will appeal. No reason for the rejections have been provided, said the forum of 63 international aid groups.

Plan International, which has worked in Pakistan since 1997, said it is supporting over 1.6 million children across Pakistan. Plan said it was given no reason for the ministry’s decision and would appeal it.

“The organisation is hopeful that the appeals process will make it possible for its work with vulnerable and marginalised children, especially girls, to continue in Pakistan,” it said in a statement.

All the other NGOs on the list who responded to queries from Reuters also said they had been given no reason for being forced to shut down.

“They must be having reasons for every (NGO) and those reasons should have been shared with the organisations,” said a representative from one NGO who declined to be identified.