Due to wider crackdown on human rights and civil society across south Asia, Pakistan has ordered almost 10 International non-governmental organizations including a charity founded by hedge fund billionaire and philanthropist George Soros to leave the country. Recently, the Interior Ministery has issued a ‘Letter of Rejection’ to 10 organisations including ActionAid, Plan International and Marie Stopes , which means their applications to register and continue work in the country has been rejected. The letter also said they should leave the country within 60 days.
The Executive Director of the Open Society’s Pakistan office, Saba Khattak, said, “We obviously find what has happened both disappointing and surprising, and are urgently seeking clarification.”
In recent years Pakistan has toughened its stance towards domestic and International groups. In January it ordered about a dozen groups working on women’s issues and human rights to halt their operations.
Action Aid country director Iftikhar Nizami said, “During the lengthy INGO registration process we provided all the information and documents required and are confident we comply with all necessary rules and regulations.”
The ministry lists 139 international non-governmental organisations (INGO) on their website that have submitted registration applications, of which 72 are still being processed. There is no list of those whose applications have been denied.
This is the latest example of Islamabad’s hostility towards international NGOs, which began in 2011, when it was linked to a Pakistani doctor recruited by the CIA to help in the hunt that led to the killing of al Qaeda militant leader Osama bin Laden in the town of Abbottabad.
This year, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres was ordered to stop work at three facilities in violence-plagued ethnic Pashtun areas bordering Afghanistan, although the interior ministry lists the group as an approved INGO.