Aid charities ActionAid and Plan 'to be turfed out' of Pakistan

Pakistani flood victims struggle for relief bags being distributed in Nowshera on August 20, 2010. Image copyright AFP
Image caption ActionAid said Pakistan's "hard-won democracy" was under threat with moves of this kind

The Pakistani government has ordered international NGOs to end their operations and leave the country within 60 days.

One of the charities affected, ActionAid, said the move was part of a "worrying escalation of recent attacks on civil society" in Pakistan.

The Pakistani Interior Ministry would not comment on the cases.

But in a letter to ActionAid, seen by the BBC, it was told it could "re-apply for registration" in six months' time.

Eighteen charities have been expelled from the country, ActionAid told the BBC.

The move comes amidst increasing concerns by human rights activists and press freedom campaigners about freedom of expression in the country.

Pakistan's intelligence services have viewed NGOs with increased suspicion since the discovery in 2011 of a fake vaccination programme in the country run by the CIA aiming to track down Osama bin Laden.

Officials have previously accused "Save the Children" of links to the scheme, though the charity denies that.

ActionAid and a number of other international NGOs were ordered to leave Pakistan in December 2017. But following pressure from Western governments were allowed to stay in the country whilst they appealed against the decision.

ActionAid and Plan International confirmed that they had both now received letters informing them their appeal had been unsuccessful but said no reason had been given.

ActionAid's Acting Country Director Abdul Khaliq told the BBC he understood there was no further possibility of an appeal against the ruling. He added he was concerned about the impact on the "thousands" of vulnerable and marginalised people the charity works with.

In a statement, Plan International said it currently supports "over 1.6 million children" in Pakistan and was "saddened" by the decision.

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