Protests as Pakistan clamps down on charities: World Vision given 90 days to leave

Pakistan has ordered 27 charities, including Christian groups, to shut down their operations in the country.

World Vision is among the aid agencies to be given 90 days to stop their work after the country's Ministry of Interior issued the edict, which prompted protests from human rights campaigners.

Pixabay

Talal Chaudhry, Pakistan's 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 refused 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 authorised.

But World Vision has said it is appealing the decision and hopes to continue working in Pakistan.

In a statement to Christian Today a spokesman said: 'World Vision is cooperating fully with the Government of Pakistan on this matter and we hope our appeal to this decision will be positive so that we can continue our work with the children of Pakistan.

'World Vision Pakistan is implementing various projects on Health & Nutrition, and Education and Resilience. Presently, World Vision Pakistan is working with children and youth to provide them with access to education, protection, sustainable income generation, health care, food and better care within their homes and communities.

'We worked with approximately 800,000 children since 2015 and fear for their well-being if our programmes are ended.

'Our primary concern is the continuation of our work with some of the most vulnerable children in Pakistan.'

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 organisation is hopeful that the appeals process will make it possible for its work with vulnerable and marginalised children, especially girls, to continue in Pakistan,' it said in a statement.

Other NGOs on the list contacted by Reuters said they had been given no reason for being forced to shut down.

Chaudhry, the interior minister, said the number of international organisations in Pakistan had rocketed after the 9/11 terror attacks after Islamabad allied itself with the US' war on terror.

'But there were also a number of NGOs that are used, knowingly or unknowingly for activities that conflict with Pakistan's national interests,' Chaudhry said, adding that registration procedures are commonplace in other countries.

In recent years Pakistan has hardened its stance towards NGOs, requiring them to undertake a painstaking registration process and clear multiple bureaucratic hurdles to continue working in the country.

Save the Children was one of the victims of this clampdown 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.

More recently in January, the interior ministry ordered a dozen domestic groups working on women's issues and human rights to halt operations, a move later overturned in courts.

Additional reporting from Reuters. 

Lifestyle