Open Society Foundations Seek Clarification on Pakistan NGO Ruling

NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations' national foundation in Pakistan is seeking clarification from the government, after the Ministry of the Interior informed it and a number of other international non-governmental organizations that they must cease operations in Pakistan in just 60 days.

In October 2015 the government ordered all international NGOs already operating in Pakistan to register with the Interior Ministry, a process that required the submission of detailed accounts of their current and historic project funding. 

At the end of November, the Interior Ministry issued letters advising more than a dozen international NGOs that their applications to register had been rejected but giving no reasons. The affected organizations may lodge an appeal within 90 days, but it is not clear how this process will be managed.  

According to the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, the work of international NGOs directly benefits approximately 29 million people in Pakistan. In addition, they contributed some $285 million in funding for development and emergency relief in 2016, and employ over 5,000 local staff.

The Open Society Foundations first started working in the country in 2005, providing $3m of emergency relief aid for victims of that year’s devastating earthquake.  The Foundation Open Society Institute—Pakistan (FOSIP), began operations in Islamabad in 2008. Guided by an advisory board led by prominent Pakistani thought leaders, and often working alongside federal and provincial governments, the foundation has supported a range of projects related to education, legal empowerment of the poor, journalists’ security and efforts to support government transparency. 

After the devastating floods of 2010, Open Society provided an additional $6m in emergency funds to support recovery.

Saba Khattak, country director of the Foundation Open Society Institute—Pakistan, said: “The Open Society Foundations have invested some $37m in grants and relief assistance in Pakistan since 2005, working with the full support of the government. We obviously find what has happened both disappointing and surprising, and are urgently seeking clarification. We naturally expect the decision will be reviewed in the best interests of the vulnerable communities we serve and advocate for.”