Pakistan has ordered a host of international aid groups to wrap up their operations in 60 days, a global NGO said on Wednesday, as officials tighten controls on foreign charities in the country.
Authorities have moved to force overseas-funded aid organizations to re-register under stricter rules that came into force two years ago, leading several to lose their licenses. “We believe that we are one of more than 20 organizations whose registrations have been rejected,” Jonathan Birchall, the lead Communications Officer for Open Society Foundations told AFP.
The organization, which is funded by the U.S. billionaire philanthropist George Soros and runs a raft of programs from education to governance, had earlier issued a statement seeking clarification from the interior ministry over the move.
International charity ActionAid, which supports a range of projects from livelihoods to women’s rights, has also said it is being forced to leave Pakistan. The organization “has been given 60 days to close all operations in the country,” it said in a statement released last week, after its application to register under Pakistan’s new rules for international non-governmental organizations was declined.
Pakistani officials declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
In September, the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it had been ordered to close its facilities in a militancy-wracked tribal district, leaving thousands without healthcare. While militancy and natural disasters plague parts of Pakistan, the country has shown increasing suspicion of foreign aid groups in recent years.
In 2012, a Pakistan intelligence report linked the aid group Save the Children to the doctor, Shakeel Afridi, who the CIA used to carry out a fake vaccination program as they searched for Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Save the Children has always denied it had any links with Afridi or the CIA. But the charity’s expat staff was forced to leave Pakistan after the accusations emerged.
Pakistan has since hardened its policies toward international aid groups, accusing them of being covers for spying operations, and has repeatedly warned them to restrict their activities.