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Govt under international pressure after asking 18 INGOs to wind up operations in Pakistan

October 09, 2018

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A policeman stands guard outside the office of the international charity 'Save the Children', sealed by order of the interior ministry in 2015. —AFP/File
A policeman stands guard outside the office of the international charity 'Save the Children', sealed by order of the interior ministry in 2015. —AFP/File

The interior ministry's refusal to renew licences of 18 international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) earlier this month and subsequent order to wind up operations within 60 days has put it on the receiving end of pressure from the international community, especially global aid agencies.

Due to intensifying international pressure, the government is now reportedly considering extending the 60-day deadline for winding up operations in Pakistan. However, the security establishment is adamant in wanting them gone.

The INGOs were notified by the interior ministry on October 2, 2018, that their respective applications for registration had not been approved. Subsequently, the 18 INGOs were asked to wind up operations within 60 days.

These INGOs were given the option to re-apply for registration in light of a revised MoU after a period of six months from the date on which they were served the notice. But though the interior ministry seemed to have kept the door open for another shot at registration, the INGOs' security clearance was left to the discretion of intelligence agencies.

The same agencies have repeatedly declared many of the affected INGOs ‘anti-state’ and submitted clear recommendations to have them evicted.

Also read: Time to review NGO policy

According to DawnNewsTV, a recent document penned by the apex intelligence agency states that the “friendly disguised INGOs with lucrative capital have well-established ingress from top government level to grass root level of union council and have turned into a mafia”.

“Following a scrutiny of the INGOs by state organisations, scores of INGO’s were found working against the interest of Pakistan and were involved in sensitive issues related to security and religious matters,” reads the document.

According to a senior intelligence official, some of these INGOs are allegedly contributing to a “hybrid war” against Pakistan and also “encouraging sectarianism, promoting a foreign agenda, supporting hostile spy agencies, collecting illegal data and operating without any legal backing”.

Furthermore, the country’s premier intelligence agency has accused the INGOs of “working as front offices of hostile intelligence agencies, trying to influence our electoral system, weapon smuggling, illegal data collection, hiding presence of foreign employees, supporting the sub-nationalist and anti-state movement,” among other serious accusations.

The INGOs asked to close their operations are listed below:

  • Centre for International Private Enterprise, (CIPE), US
  • Internews Network, US
  • Pathfinder International, US
  • Central Asia Education Trust, US
  • American Center for International Labor Solidarity (Solidarity Center), US
  • World Vision, US
  • Catholic Relief Services (CRS), US
  • Plan International, US
  • International Relief and Development Inc, (IRD), US
  • International Alert, UK
  • Safeworld, UK
  • ActionAid, UK
  • Stichting BRAC International, Netherland
  • Rutgers, Netherland
  • Trocaire, Ireland
  • Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Denmark
  • Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI), Switzerland
  • ISCOS, Trade Unions Institute for Development Coop, Italy

Perhaps aware of the criticism they face, the country's security agencies are pointing out that the government has allowed 81 INGOs from different countries to continue working inside the country.

"The organisations are contributing positively in various development and welfare projects and Pakistan acknowledges their contribution and will encourage INGOs to play a positive role in the development of the country in line with national policies, without compromising our sovereignty," read the document.