US, EU nations express ‘serious concerns’ about Pakistan’s aid group crackdown

The 18 aid organizations were appealing against their expulsion orders, issued late last year to 27 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in all. (AFP/File)
Updated 25 October 2018

US, EU nations express ‘serious concerns’ about Pakistan’s aid group crackdown

  • Pakistan has long viewed foreign-funded aid groups with suspicion and many members of the powerful military believe that Western countries often use such groups as a cover for spying
  • At least 18 international aid agencies were ordered to leave Pakistan over recent months after being refused registration

ISLAMABAD: Western nations, including the United States and European countries, have expressed “serious concerns” to Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan about a crackdown on aid groups, diplomats said.
Pakistan has long viewed foreign-funded aid groups with suspicion and many members of the powerful military believe that Western countries often use such groups as a cover for spying.
Diplomats and foreign journalists also face severe restrictions on their movements in the nuclear-armed nation.
At least 18 international aid agencies were ordered to leave Pakistan over recent months after being refused registration.
The countries have written a letter to Khan saying the groups did not get a proper explanation for why the government had ordered them out and they criticized a “lack of transparency” in the registration process.
“We are writing to express serious concerns with respect to recent developments,” the countries said in the letter seen by Reuters. Four diplomats confirmed its authenticity.
“Restriction on civil society risks affecting Pakistan’s international reputation as a genuine partner on human developments and undermining confidence of the international donor and business community,” they said in the letter.
Neither Khan’s office nor the foreign ministry had any immediate comment on the letter, which was signed by envoys from the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Norway and Switzerland.
The European Union ambassador signed on behalf of the 17 EU countries with missions in Pakistan, including Britain and France.
A similar letter was sent to the Interior Ministry in September, diplomatic sources say.
The 18 aid organizations were appealing against their expulsion orders, issued late last year to 27 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in all.
The Western envoys said the impact of expelling the groups would be “significant,” and warned that it would imperil some of development goals championed by Khan, who was elected in July on a populist platform to help the poor.
“Restricting INGO operations will affect millions of poor Pakistanis. In 2017 alone, the INGO sector reached 34 million people with humanitarian relief and development assistance,” the counties aid in their letter, referring to international NGOs.
“This will mean thousands of Pakistanis employed by INGOs and local partners may lose their jobs.”
One of the 18 groups facing closure, ActionAid, which focuses on education, poverty alleviation and human rights, said this month the expulsion of the groups was part of a broader pattern.
“Pakistan’s decision to shut down ActionAid and other International NGOs is a worrying escalation of recent attacks on civil society, academics and journalists,” the group said.
Media groups have warned of a more difficult environment for them with increasing censorship and threats from the military, which denies intimidation.


South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

Updated 23 January 2021

South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

  • South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players
  • The South African player beleives Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi can pose problems for his team

ISLAMABAD: South African cricketer Faf du Plessis believes spending months in a bio-secure bubble could soon become a major challenge for players.

“We understand that this is a very tough season and a tough challenge for a lot of people out there, but if it’s back-to-back-to-back bubble life, things would become a big challenge,” du Plessis said during a virtual news conference on Saturday.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, cricketers have to adhere to strict procedures for an international series. In countries like Pakistan, international games are being played in empty stadiums and players' movement confined to just their hotel and stadiums.

Du Plessis is one of those South African cricketers, along with captain Quinton de Kock, to have experienced life in a bubble over the last few months. He played in the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates and home series against Sri Lanka. Now he has a two-test series in Pakistan, starting Tuesday in Karachi, followed by the second test at Rawalpindi.

“The main priority is to play cricket, to be out there doing what we love instead of being at home … so I think that still remains the most important thing. But I think there would definitely come a point where players would struggle with this (bubble)," du Plessis said.

“If you look at a calendar of the last eight months, you’re looking at about four or five months in a bubble, which is a lot. For some of us (being) without family, it can get challenging. Right now, I’m still in a good place. I’m still feeling really motivated and driven, but I can only speak for myself.

“I don’t think it’s possible to continue from bubble to bubble to bubble, I’ve seen and heard a lot of players talk about it. I don’t think it’s sustainable.”

The South African team practiced at the National Stadium -- the venue for the test opener -- for the first time on Saturday. Before that, the visitors had been practicing at a stadium close to the team hotel for the last four days where they played intra-squad matches.

“For now, (I'm) enjoying the four walls of my room and then the pitch outside where we can get to do what we love,” du Plessis said.

The 36-year-old du Plessis, who has appeared in 67 test matches for South Africa with a batting average topping 40, will be playing his first test in Pakistan since making his debut against Australia in 2012. Pakistan last hosted South Africa in 2007. In 2009 international cricket’s doors were shut on Pakistan after an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team bus at Lahore.

Du Plessis has played seven test matches against Pakistan that included two in the UAE and five in South Africa.

Du Plessis is South Africa’s most experienced player touring Pakistan, but wasn’t sure what type of wickets will be prepared for the two tests.

“I think that’s possibly the biggest thing that we are unsure about,” he said.

“As a team we try to prepare for everything and anything, overprepare, spin conditions, reverse swinging ball … if I have to call it, I probably said I think that wickets will be a bit more subcontinent like than it used to be back then (in 2007), so spinners would probably be more a little bit more in the game.”

Du Plessis has picked fit-again Pakistan all-format captain Babar Azam and fast bowler Shaheen Afridi as the two players who could pose problems for the tourists. Babar has regained fitness from a fractured thumb — in his absence Pakistan lost both the Twenty20 and test series in New Zealand.

“Obviously, having Babar back is massive for them,” du Plessis said.

“Afridi has been getting a lot of wickets, so probably someone like him would be pretty dangerous.”