Dawn News

An ill-considered move

THE manner in which events tend to play out in Pakistan leaves us wondering whether those in charge spend any time at all pondering over the consequences of their actions. On Thursday, the interior ministry refused to extend the visas of several foreign representatives of the international NGO Save the Children. While no reason has officially been given, it is believed to be a late-stage consequence of the Osama bin Laden affair. We are still smarting over Dr Shakeel Afridi’s fake hepatitis vaccination campaign as well as our failure to detect the presence in Abbottabad of the world’s most wanted man. On Wednesday, allegations were made on a private television channel that Save the Children was in some way linked to Dr Afridi’s campaign. And while the NGO was in fact amongst those that expressed outrage over the CIA’s alleged use of a vaccination campaign in its manhunt, its employees have been given four weeks to leave the country.

This move has come on the heels of several incidents that demonstrate the rapidly shrinking space within which aid organisations and charities must operate in Pakistan. Threats and attacks from militant and extremist quarters have already meant that a number of such organisations, including most recently the International Committee of the Red Cross, have been forced to reduce their scale of operations. With the move against Save the Children, the government is sending out a strong signal that it, too, is unwilling to provide support to foreigners, even those involved in exemplary and necessary humanitarian work. The line that is strengthened is the one touted by the extremists. The fallout, meanwhile, will be borne — once again — by ordinary men, women and children that the state itself has no capacity or will to support. Time after time, whether the cause is helping people displaced by floods or providing medical aid or catering to children’s nutritional needs, international funding and the work done by charities and aid organisations have meant that the lives of hapless Pakistanis are a little less miserable than would otherwise have been the case. Does this stark reality allow the administration the luxury of knee-jerk reactions?

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Comments (7) Closed

Sep 08, 2012 11:05am
Let them go ahead with such actions. But do remember to check the thermos bottle of vaccinators who walk home to home for polo drops. See if they have ice cubes in hermos bottles. You will be surprised to know there will bo no ice cubes. Check that and then ask one man show NGOS to do the job.
Sep 08, 2012 10:12am
Pleasing the religious bigots seems more important to the Pakistan govt than helping the miserable!
Sep 08, 2012 03:55am
One cannot imagine that the authorities have any kind of long-term view of what is happening. Internationally, people who were supportive in hearts and offering of funds are losing faith. At some point, if such decisions as these continue, that loss of faith will reach a crucial point. What is missing -- and deeply needed -- is a broader action by the government of Pakistan to see its possible place in the world community.
Syed Ahmed
Sep 08, 2012 03:17pm
Do we need NGO's to save our children? They should better look after ther children and families who arte going astray and started resorting to violence,
Anwar Amjad
Sep 09, 2012 01:35am
I am sure that the government knows a lot more than your reporters. In fact Pakistanis have lost faith in all foreign NGOs. Now their only mission is to compile rigged statistics and reports to malign Pakistan. The government should only allow Pakistani NGOs to function in the country.
Sep 08, 2012 06:37pm
Listen govt or any other reliable native pakistani organization such as edhi,shaukat khanum,agha khan hospital etc can be given the job of country wide vaccination since we have enough health personal. Including. Doctors to carry out this responsibility.the foreign organization and ngo though do good job but there are precedents when these foreign organisations were found involved in anti-pakistan activities and they also have their own. Agendas sometimes. Benefitting to other countries interest so to avoid these it is better to utilize our own organisation's like other countries do.As they say there is no free lunch hence the western NGOS always have something vested.
M. Asghar
Sep 08, 2012 08:35am
Due to the very complicated geopolitical situation in the region,,such incidents are unavoidable. However, on the other side, everything, including all types of aid, local or international, must be done to help the section of the society in need due to diverse reasons.