Pakistan's Interior Ministry has ordered 18 international aid agencies to shutter their operations and leave the country. Activists have said they were not given a reason for the expulsion.
A group of 18 foreign-funded NGOs faces expulsion from Pakistan after the country's Interior Ministry rejected their appeals to the government, the ActionAid charity said Thursday. Most of the affected agencies deal with human rights issues.
"The immediate victims will be the thousands of ordinary Pakistani families who ActionAid has been supporting to claim their rights and build a better life," the charity said in a statement. ActionAid, which focuses on education, poverty alleviation and human rights, is based in Johannesburg.
"Pakistan's decision to shut down ActionAid and other international NGOs is a worrying escalation of recent attacks on civil society, academics and journalists."
In recent years, authorities in Pakistan have enacted tough new policies on foreign-funded NGOs, accusing them of providing cover for foreign spies. A 2012 Pakistani intelligence report linked the Save the Children agency with CIA efforts to find al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Despite the group's denials, its expat staff were forced to leave Pakistan.
In 2015, Pakistan moved to enhance its monitoring of foreign NGOs by having them re-register with the government in order to enhance the monitoring of their operations. The crackdown culminated late last year, when a total of 27 organizations were told to end their operations on Pakistani soil. Authorities did not provide a reason for the decision.
No explanation given
ActionAid and 17 other groups appealed the decision on Thursday, but ActionAid's Pakistan country director Abdul Khaliq said the Interior Ministry had already "rejected the appeal of all of them" without explanation.
The organizations have been ordered to cease their activities within 60 days, and will be allowed to "re-apply for registration ... after six months."
Right activists in Pakistan and abroad have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the increasingly authoritarian regime in Islamabad and the rise of religious extremism.
dj/cmk (Reuters, AFP)