A wave of a crackdown on NGOs working in Pakistan has its roots with the agenda of national security championed by armed forces of Pakistan. In consequence of this wave, NGOs are becoming victim of self-censorship,
In a recent Joint Action Committee meeting at AGHS legal aid cell, NGO’s expressed their grievances in the wake of this crackdown against their activities. The discussion revolved around the aforementioned agenda points. Firstly, the crackdown of the state on civil society organisations was discussed. Two distinct mechanisms of this intimidation were brought to the fore: sending notices to NGOs, and harassment. The modalities of harassment were discussed in detail with participants sharing a range of tactics deployed to intimidate NGOs and to curtail their work.
Not only did agencies visit offices of different NGOs asking for exhaustive details about the organisation and its work, but also personal details of the personnel working in the organisation. Moreover, due to the exhausting process of acquiring an NOC to conduct project activities, the activities of the NGOs suffer, putting their future funding at risk.
In the discussion, participants further added that the scope of NGOs activities have also been reduced as they are not allowed to talk about political issues, research, conduct a survey or study, collect data, conduct mapping exercises, and conduct any advocacy campaigns.
During the meeting, it was decided that those NGOs that are only facing harassment, for now, should hold seminars, press conferences, etc. to highlight the issue.
The NGOs also stated that the Societies Registration Act should not be used as part of the legal or advocacy strategy, as the law has loopholes that make way for state-sponsored control and intimidation.