The Lahore High Court has agreed to hear cases presented by SAP-PK and the two other groups, requesting that it overrule the ban. On Monday, the court gave temporary permission to SAP-PK and the Cholistan Development Council Bahawalpur to continue working, and it told Women in Struggle for Empowerment on Tuesday that it could continue working for the time-being.
"The interior ministry is looking into the whole issue regarding closure orders to several NGOs in Punjab and will release a detailed response on it in [the] next couple of days," ministry spokesman Sarfraz Hussain told IRIN.
Another NGO, Anjuman Falah-e-Niswan, which provides skills training to marginalised women, is also preparing to legally challenge the closure order, said its director, Nasreen Awan. She said the government forced her group to stop operating in 2015 but then allowed it to continue after officials scrutinised funding records.
“The government shouldn’t ban any organisation; rather monitor the working and source of funding,” she said. “If the government finds any anomaly in utilisation of the funds, it should initiate legal action against the organisation instead of ordering it to close operations.”
Another 121 local NGOs had their registration cancelled last week by the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration, bringing the total number to 350 over the past couple of years, according to Mohammad Ali, the administration’s director of labour.
He told IRIN that the registrations were cancelled because NGOs were “getting funds from foreign donors but not letting the administration know about [the] exact source and use of these funds”.
International NGOs have not been immune to the government’s crackdown. In 2015, the Norwegian Refugee Council was expelled from Pakistan, and police came to the offices of Save the Children and forced the group to temporarily shut down.
At the time, government sources told IRIN that Save the Children had attempted to conceal its links with Shakil Afridi, the doctor who allegedly ran a fake vaccination campaign to gather information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden by US Navy Seals during a covert operation in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in 2011.
Save the Children told IRIN that the allegations were ridiculous, and said the only link between it and Afridi was that he was one of about 5,000 health workers who had taken part in training sessions in government facilities.
(TOP PHOTO: Civil society activists demonstrate in Islamabad last week for equal education for boys and girls. CREDIT: Aamir Saeed/IRIN)