ISLAMABAD – The Interior Ministry of Pakistan has given 18 international foreign aid groups 60 days to shut down their operations and leave the country. All 18 agencies had filed appeals in response to an earlier notice from the IM.
The first agency to report the news was ActionAid, a Johannesburg-based, international that aims to help people use their own power to fight poverty and injustice.
“We help people fight for the rights that they are denied. Simple things, like the right to eat. The right to stay on their land. To an education. To have a say in the decisions that shape their lives.”
In 2015, Pakistan asked all foreign aid and advocacy agencies to file new applications for registration with the government “in order to enhance the monitoring of their operations.”
Although no specific reasons for the denial of appeals have been released, there is a consensus that there is a fear amongst officials that some of the international aid agencies operating in Pakistan are being used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency as operatives in the country.
The apprehension began in 2012 when an internal intelligence report alleged that the CIA had used the Save the Children organization to help locate Osama bin Laden.
Save the Children was forced to close its operations in Pakistan and leave the country although they have denied having any relationship with the CIA. Since the report was issued, all international NGOs have been “under strict surveillance of Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies” with suspicion that they are engaged in espionage activities.
The uptick in expulsions may also be a retaliation in response to the recent announcement that the United States would withhold $300 million in military aid to the country.
Other International NGOs based in the U.S. that have been ordered to cease operations include:
- Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)
- Internews Network
- Pathfinder International
- Central Asia Education Trust
- American Center for Intl Labor Solidarity (Solidarity Center)
- World Vision
- Catholic Relief Svc (CRS)
- Plan International
- International Relief and Development Inc. (IRD)
The remaining groups preparing to leave are based in Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland, and Italy.
It is worthy of note that only a couple of the agencies are faith-based initiatives, which would seem to indicate that the government’s issues are broadly based.
The Director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, Muhammed Amir Rana, has suggested that because many of the NGOs are politically-oriented and working primarily in the field of human rights, officials are trying to control groups they might consider to be a threat to the current regime.
ActionAid released a statement that spotlighted the closing’s effect on humanitarian aid efforts in the country.
“The immediate victims will be the thousands of ordinary Pakistani families who ActionAid has been supporting to claim their rights and build a better life. Pakistan’s decision to shut down ActionAid and other International NGOs is a worrying escalation of recent attacks on civil society, academics, and journalists.”
The expelled agencies will be allowed to reapply for registration after six months.
To read more news on Missions Box on Pakistan, go here.
- The Nation, 10 out of 18 shut INGOs were US-based
- Radio Free Europe, Pakistan Expelling ActionAid, 17 Other Foreign Aid Groups, Charity Says
- The Christian Messenger, Pak orders ActionAid to wind up ops and leave country in 60 days
- ActionAid, Who we are
- By DVIDSHUB (Pakistan Humanitarian Aid) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons