December 22, 2017
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has ordered 27 international aid groups to shut down for working in unauthorized areas, spurring human rights campaigners to denounce swelling constraints on free speech and humanitarian work.
The Ministry of Interior gave the 27 NGOs 90 days to conclude operations, according to a list seen by Reuters. Among those being expelled are Action Aid, World Vision, Plan International, Trocaire, Pathfinder International, Danish Refugee Council, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, Oxfam Novib, and Marie Stopes.
Talal Chaudhry (pictured), Minister of State for Interior Affairs, told Reuters 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”.
He declined to give specific examples, but said the targeted NGOs spend “all their money” on administration, are not doing the work they said they were doing, and are working in areas where they were not authorized.
The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), which represents 63 international aid groups, 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, the forum said.
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 organization is hopeful that the appeals process will make it possible for its work with vulnerable and marginalized 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 organizations,” said a representative from one NGO who declined to be identified. - Reuters/Photo: Twitter
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