US urges Pakistan to reconsider its clampdown on aid agencies

The International Rescue Committee, along with several partner organizations, is collaborating with the Pakistan Reading Project to teach more than one million girls and boys to read in a country which has one of the highest child illiteracy rates in the world. (Photo Courtesy: International Rescue Committee website)
Updated 05 December 2018

US urges Pakistan to reconsider its clampdown on aid agencies

  • Authorities reject registration applications filed by 18 INGOs
  • Government says it is committed to pursuing an open and transparent policy

ISLAMABAD: The US State Department on Tuesday urged Pakistan to reconsider its decision to suspend the licenses of several International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs) operating in the country forcing them to close shop.
“We encourage Pakistan to engage with all international partners who share their commitment to a bright future for Pakistan,” Heather Nauert, US State Department Spokesperson said in a statement.
Nauert said that Washington recognizes the vital role played by the INGOs in the country, in collaboration with Pakistani institutions, on causes ranging from disaster management to human and economic development, to promoting human rights and democratic values.
“These organizations, which also employ thousands of Pakistanis countrywide, share the government of Pakistan’s and the Pakistani people’s vision for a vibrant, healthy, democratic, and prosperous country,” the US official said.
She added that the US thanks these organizations and their employees for their contributions to Pakistan’s development. “In that context, the United States regrets that the government of Pakistan has required 18 INGOs, many of which have been working in Pakistan for many years, to close their operations in Pakistan,” the statement read. 
Reacting to the statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a press release on November 15 stating that the government had carefully reviewed the concerns being expressed about some of the INGOs’ working in Pakistan.
“Broadly, three concerns have been highlighted. One, there is a lack of clarity or insufficient information on the grounds for rejection. Secondly, the INGO registration process is non-transparent. Third, the decision on the closure of operations would somehow constrain the space for INGOs and civil society in Pakistan.”
However, the Foreign Ministry re-affirmed the government’s commitment to pursue an open and transparent INGO policy, which is underpinned by national laws, rules, and regulations. “Pakistan’s INGO policy framework is fully aligned with nationally determined development priorities and needs. We recognize and appreciate the assistance from the donor community and INGOs,” the Foreign Ministry statement read.
“As for the shrinking space, the evidence is contrary to assertions. Out of 141 that had applied for registration since October 2015, the applications of 74 INGOs have been approved which is more than 50% approval rate. These numbers do not count the applications of other INGOs which are being processed,” it added.

Pakistan's support for Kashmiri cause unwavering, Raheel Sharif says in Riyadh

Updated 31 October 2020

Pakistan's support for Kashmiri cause unwavering, Raheel Sharif says in Riyadh

  • Pakistani embassy in Riyadh held a seminar on the human rights situation in Kashmiri territory to mark Kashmir Black Day
  • Kashmiri self-determination is not only a moral and legally justified right, former Saudi ambassador to Pakistan says

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif said that Pakistan supports the Kashmiri cause with an "unflinching resolve."

The general's comment came during a seminar, "Human Rights Situation in Kashmir: Implications for Regional Peace and Stability," organized by the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday.

"Let it be known that every citizen of Pakistan stands united with the people of Kashmir and supports their struggle for freedom with an unflinching resolve," said Gen. Raheel Sharif, who now leads the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, a counterterrorist alliance of Muslim countries, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia.

"The issue of Kashmir is very close to every Pakistani’s heart as we fully understand the cause and dynamics of this struggle right from the beginning. We have closely witnessed the sufferings of our Kashmiri brethren and appreciate their resolve and valor in pursuit of their goal and fundamental human rights."

Former Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif participates in a seminar organized in Riyadh by the Pakistani embassy to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Pakistan Embassy Riyadh via AN)

Kashmiri territory is divided between India and Pakistan, but both countries claim the region in its entirety. Crackdowns in the Indian-administered part have been escalating since August 2019, when New Delhi scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, which gave Kashmiris limited autonomy and protected their domicile and employment rights.

If not reversed, the Indian regime's August move, Sharif said, will cause "further unrest in the region."

Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri, who was one of speakers in the seminar, said that last year's change in Kashmir's status "through annexation and division of the internationally recognized disputed region," as well as subsequent lockdown and "enforced demographic shift currently underway" have aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the region.

"Kashmiri people are facing a more dangerous situation now as every passing day is marginalizing their political status and socio-economic space," he said during the seminar, as he recalled serving in Pakistan and leading Saudi relief efforts after an earthquake that devastated Kashmir in 2005.  

Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri, participates in a seminar organized in Riyadh by the Pakistani embassy to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Pakistan Embassy Riyadh via AN)

He said the relief could not reach the Indian-administered part of the territory, as New Delhi did not grant access. "We remember that Kashmir on the other side of LOC also faced devastating effects of the earthquake but could not do much due to lack of access by the Indian authorities."

"Kashmiri people want to live their lives according to their free will and India has denied this basic right and instead chosen the path of repression," Asseri added.

"The Kashmiri demand of self-determination is not only the moral right but also legally justified under UN security council resolutions."

India on Wednesday notified new laws that allow non-Kashmiris to buy land in the disputed region, rising concerns that the new regulation would dilute the Muslim-majority character of the region.

"Contrary to Indian claims of bringing development to the Kashmir valley, the real motive remains altering the demographics of the Muslim-majority territory," Islamabad's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Raja Ali Ejaz, told Arab News after the seminar.

He added that the Pakistani government remains "fully committed to the Kashmir cause."