The Pakistan Civil Society Forum (PCSF) and other civil society organizations noted the attempts for curbing the voices of civil society activists; mainly international and national NGOs working on human rights, democracy and social justice.
They said that the recent decision to disallow the functioning of several international NGOs is also an attempt to control their voices and abilities to access resources for the promotion of people’s socio-economic and political rights. The current trend of the state-authorities silencing independent voices in the media will be counter-productive and will become further divisive for the Pakistani society.
PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, on the occasion, said that the matter regarding the working of INGOs should have come to the parliament. He said he will raise this issue at the Senate of Pakistan. Former Senator Afrasiab Khattak was of the view that by making such decisions, our policymakers were pushing Pakistan further towards global isolation.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Director, I A Rehman said that this act of the government was totally unlawful and hence, cannot be accepted. He said that the state was trying to silence the voices that play a watchful role for the rights of the people.
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Sulehri was of the view that the state can lay out rules to regulate INGOs in Pakistan. However, asking 31 INGOs to close down without giving any reason was illogical.
He stated that the government must follow a proper procedure in this regard and added that the rejecting the MOUs of INGOs may jeopardize Pakistan’s GSP plus status which would be a huge loss considering the existing state of economy and trade deficit of the country.
Muhammad Tahseen, of South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK), on the occasion, said that PCSF was perturbed on the lack of transparency in policy-making that is blatantly arbitrary without taking into the stakeholders into confidence and a total disregard to their contribution for the development of the people of Pakistan. The decision shows total arbitrariness and ad-hocism followed by the federal authorities.
He said that the forum also notes the attempts by state bodies harassing NGO and INGO workers. These attempts are creating a climate of fear and discouraging these organizations to speak for fundamental rights and democracy. These policies are contrary to the national legal framework as well as Pakistan’s international obligations.
Human rights activist Hina Jilani, Aurat Foundation Executive Director Naeem Ahmad Mirza and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) President Afzal Butt also shared their views regarding the matter.
They said that we being representatives of civil society believe that no concerns or interests of the state can be served through any tactics that undermine the capacity of the civil society of Pakistan to further their work through international cooperation. Especially at a time when Pakistan is faced with multiple challenges of poverty, slow economic growth, extremism, international isolation and many other daunting challenges.
The PCSF believes that the country is not progressing well in the areas of basic education, primary health and economic marginalization, violence against women, and minorities.
The organizations making credible inputs and contributions in dealing with these challenges are facing stern actions that will undermine their work.
Such policies and arbitrary will deeply undermine people’s trust and will take real discourse away from the actual issues the country and its citizens are faced with.