Beginning in 2015, the Interior Ministry required stricter and more detailed online registration application for NGOs. The move was prompted by fears that some NGOs were using their charitable status to spy on Pakistan – and one observer said it is connected to the U.S. government’s hunt for bin Laden.
Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, told the AP that ahead of the 2011 U.S. Navy Seal operation that killed bin Laden in Pakistan, a Pakistani doctor used a fake vaccination scam to attempt to identify the al-Qaeda leader’s home using DNA acquired from his relatives.
The Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, said he was working for the NGO Save the Children to gain access to the bin Laden compound.
According to Reuters, he had been recruited by the CIA to help find bin Laden. He has been in jail since 2011.
Save the Children has denied any links to the CIA, and said the doctor’s claimed link with the NGO was false, but its non-Pakistani staff were forced to leave the country, Agence France Presse reports.
In 2012 the NGO’s then-country representative David Wright charged that intelligence agencies had broken international law and put at risk the safety of aid groups around the world.
“The blame lies squarely with the CIA which use humanitarian work for intelligence gathering or worse,” he said, according to the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. “If it continues then we won't be able to do our jobs at all in 10 years’ time.”
Rana said that Pakistan, including its intelligence agency, also views many international aid organizations as advocates of “liberal, secular voices.”
In December 2017 Pakistan’s previous government ordered 10 other foreign-funded aid groups to close, including the Pakistani branch of the Open Society Foundations. That order was not enforced in time.
The U.K.-based Plan International also faces a denied registration. The NGO focuses on education and child rights and often partners with the government on water and sanitation projects and disaster management.
Imran Yusuf Shami, Plan International’s country director, said the NGO employs dozens of people, all of whom are Pakistani, and aids tens of thousands of the poorest people in the country.
Shami said the NGO closures will affect hundreds of thousands of people.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.