ISLAMABAD: Authorities have told at least 10 foreign-funded aid groups to close, including a charity founded by hedge fund billionaire and philanthropist George Soros.
The country has toughened its stance towards domestic and international non-governmental groups in recent years, accusing some of using their work as a cover for espionage.
In January, it ordered about a dozen groups working on women’s issues and human rights to halt their operations.
A representative of the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), which represents 63 international aid groups, said the Ministry of Interior had issued 10 of its members “letters of rejection”, meaning their applications to register had been rejected.
The forum did not identify the 10 groups but two international groups, the Pakistani branch of the Soros’ charity the Open Society Foundations, and ActionAid, said they had been told they had to close.
“We obviously find what has happened both disappointing and surprising, and are urgently seeking clarification,” the executive director of the Open Society’s country office, Saba Khattak, said in a statement.
The group had spent $37 million on grants and relief assistance in Pakistan since 2005, she said.
The Ministry of Interior, in a letter to one of the 10 groups said its registration application had been denied.
“Wind up operations/activities of above said INGO within 60 days,” the ministry said in the letter. It did give a reason why the group had to stop its work.
The ministry lists 139 international non-governmental organisations (INGO) on their website that have submitted registration applications, of which 72 are still being processed.
There is no list of those whose applications have been denied.
“During the lengthy INGO registration process we provided all the information and documents required and are confident we comply with all necessary rules and regulations,” ActionAid country director Iftikhar Nizami said in a statement.