While the number of the groups varies among news sources, the Financial Times and Pakistan’s Express Tribune report that 29 NGOs in that country have been ordered to close under implementation of new rules governing international NGOs (INGOs). The groups include the Open Society Foundations, ActionAid, Plan International, and Marie Stopes. All had reapplied under the new processes and been rejected. They have been ordered to wind down operations within 60 days.
Financial Times explains that the move is part of a larger hostile environment for civil society and human rights work and that the government’s hostility toward foreign NGOs dates back to 2011, when Pakistani intelligence services accused Save the Children of being complicit in locating Osama bin Laden. That organization was ejected from the country in 2012.
“In Pakistan, India and Nepal, space is closing in which NGOs are able to operate,” said Binaifer Nowrojee, head of Asia-Pacific for Open Society Foundations. “It comes along with a growing national pride and economic confidence in these countries. They feel that the era of being dictated to by the west is coming to an end.”
The crackdown in Pakistan follows a pattern established elsewhere, including in India.
In 2015, New Delhi put the Ford Foundation on a watch list and suspended Greenpeace India’s license. This year, it banned foreign funding for the Public Health Foundation of India, a group backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, saying it used foreign donations to “lobby” for tobacco-control policy issues.
And it is not confined to organizations. FT reports that hundreds of activists have disappeared over the past few years including, most recently, terrorism researcher Mubashar Hasan, who has been missing since November 7th.—Ruth McCambridge