ActionAid is gravely concerned by the apparent threat to humanitarian and human rights work in Pakistan. Over 20 INGOs, including ActionAid, recently received a letter from the Pakistani government demanding that they cease operations within 60 days. No reasons were given for this demand to stop work.
Abdul Khaliq, Head of Programmes for ActionAid in Pakistan says ‘ActionAid has complied with all rules and regulations and is extremely surprised to have received this letter.’
The Pakistani government told the group of INGOs that they had 90 days to appeal the decision. ActionAid will do so. It has written to the government to ask for the criteria on which such an appeal can be made. ActionAid is hopeful that it will succeed in its appeal.
However, ActionAid is concerned that the mass deregistration of INGOs may herald a wider suppression of civic space in Pakistan, similar to trends observed in many other countries worldwide. Secretary General, Adriano Campolina, says ‘Civil society plays a vital role in ensuring that marginalised people can speak up and play an active role in building a better Pakistan. We urge the government to avoid hasty moves that could damage the future of democracy in Pakistan.’
Mr Campolina continues, ‘ActionAid is a federation of ActionAids working in 45 countries around the world, including Pakistan. Our main priority is to defend the rights of the poorest and most marginalised people in society, which includes women and girls. We are alarmed that our work is under threat.’
ActionAid is continuing its project work in Manshera and Mardan, where it is helping rural women to earn a living from agriculture. And in Muzafarabad and Bagh, where it is carrying out reconstruction work following the recent earthquake. Mr Khaliq says ‘We are continuing to support the poorest and most marginalised people in the country. If we are not allowed to continue our work, there is no doubt that more people will suffer from poverty and injustice.’