With the local ulema still adamant on not reversing their joint edict of declaring Non-Governmental Organistation-sponsored projects ‘haram’, NGOs working in different parts of Kohistan have suspended their activities, official sources told The Express Tribune on Thursday.
“Yes, we have closed our field office and called back staff members, suspending project activities, at least temporarily,” said an official of the NGO Saiban, adding they would not resume their activities unless the district administration guaranteed their staff’s security.
Over 150 ulema from the four tehsils of Kohistan district issued a final decree against NGOs on June 29, declaring their activities and projects ‘haram’ and demanding they leave the district immediately. The ulema, in a meeting chaired by former MNA Maulana Abdul Haleem, also warned the beneficiaries of NGO projects that their funeral prayers would not be offered unless they ceased availing the projects.
The ulema accused NGOs of conspiring against Islam, ulema and local customs and decided that any funding for development schemes in the district must come through the government. They also suggested NGOs and donors shift their projects to other poverty stricken areas as they believed Kohistan did not face any dire situation. Maulana Haleem was an ardent supporter of NGOs when they started working in Kohistan after the 2005 earthquake, an NGO worker from Kohistan said under condition of anonymity.
He said that while the ulema were respectable and held in high esteem by Kohistanis, they must quote the Quranic reference under which they declared NGO projects ‘haram’.
“They should have desisted from issuing such decrees because it has brought the country and especially Kohistan a bad name,” he said.
He further added that the matter needed to be investigated to determine who was instigating local ulema to issue such controversial edicts – whether there were some elements opposed to Kohistan’s development or was it a mere political slogan to win supporters for the upcoming election.
A source at the Kohistan DCO’s office confirmed the administration has engaged local ulema to convince them on reversing their edict. However, the source said that until the matter was resolved, NGOs have been asked to be careful and keep their activities low profile.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2012.