Gulf News

Clam­p­down on NGOs could af­fect 11m

Af­fected char­i­ties in­clude World Vi­sion, Plan In­ter­na­tional, Tro­caire and Safer­world

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Pak­istan’s ex­pul­sion of 18 in­ter­na­tional aid agen­cies will hurt 11 mil­lion aid re­cip­i­ents in a South Asian na­tion grap­pling with per­ilously low stan­dards of ed­u­ca­tion and health care, two Western diplo­mats said on Tues­day.

Af­fected NGOs in­clude World Vi­sion, Pathfinder, Plan In­ter­na­tional, Tro­caire and Safer­world. An­other group, Ac­tionAid, last week said it was clos­ing of­fices and lay­ing off staff af­ter the govern­ment told it to halt op­er­a­tions and leave.

US State De­part­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert said the United States “re­grets” Pak­istan’s de­ci­sion and noted that many of the 18 groups had worked in the coun­try for years, em­ploy­ing thou­sands of Pak­ista­nis and work­ing to im­prove the lives of or­di­nary peo­ple.

‘Lack of trans­parency’

Pak­istan’s in­te­rior min­istry con­firmed it had re­jected ap­peals of 18 NGOs that had been al­lowed to con­tinue op­er­a­tions while ap­peals were be­ing re­viewed. It de­clined to give fur­ther de­tails.

Aid groups and western diplo­mats blasted a lack of trans­parency in the process of ex­pul­sion and re­view of ap­peals.

“It is as ap­palling as it is in­ex­pli­ca­ble that the govern­ment has de­cided to deprive 11 mil­lion of its own peo­ple of much-needed sup­port with no ap­par­ent rea­son,” a Western di­plo­mat told jour­nal­ists, ask­ing not to be iden­ti­fied.

The in­te­rior min­istry did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to the diplo­mats’ com­ments.

In­stead it re­ferred jour­nal­ists to a Novem­ber 15 state­ment in which Pak­istan’s for­eign of­fice said poli­cies re­gard­ing in­ter­na­tional aid groups were “fully aligned” with na­tion­ally de­ter­mined devel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties and needs, and that Is­lam­abad ap­pre­ci­ated the as­sis­tance pro­vided by donor agen­cies.

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of all 18 INGOs were given the right to ap­peal and the op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide ad­di­tional de­tails and dis­cuss mu­tual con­cerns,” it added. “As for shrink­ing space, the ev­i­dence is con­trary to as­ser­tions. Out of 141 that ap­plied for reg­is­tra­tion since Oc­to­ber 2015, ap­pli­ca­tions of 74 INGOs have been ap­proved.”

Ex­pul­sion or­ders

A to­tal of 27 in­ter­na­tional NGOs re­ceived ex­pul­sion or­ders late last year, but 18 ap­pealed. Most of the af­fected groups worked on hu­man rights and ad­vo­cacy is­sues.

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