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Pakistan kicks out 18 charities after rejecting final appeal

Human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeted that the 18 were asked to leave for spreading disinformation.

Pakistan is kicking out 18 international charities after rejecting their final appeal to stay in the country.

The groups are mainly US-based, from Britain and Europe.

Another 20 groups are at risk of also being expelled after authorities a few months ago singled out some 38 international aid groups for closure, without any explanation.

Umair Hasan, spokesman for Pakistan Humanitarian Foundation, an umbrella representing 15 of the charities, said on Thursday that the move would affect millions of poor Pakistanis and lead to tens of millions of pounds in aid lost.

The development is the latest in a systematic crackdown on international organisations in Pakistan, with authorities using every bureaucratic excuse, such as discrepancies in visa and registration documentation, to target them.

There is also a perception in Islamabad that the United States and European countries have secretly brought spies into Pakistan under the guise of aid workers.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeted that the 18 were asked to leave for spreading disinformation.

“They must leave. They need to work within their stated intent which these 18 didn’t do,” she said.

Umair Hasan said the 18 expelled groups, with the exception of two that are still in court trying to overturn their ousting, have closed their operations in Pakistan.

The groups provided everything from education to health care to sanitary and clean water facilities, he said.

Many worked in partnership with provincial governments, often supplementing meagre development budgets.

Now local officials are being “told not to work with these” groups, added Hasan.

“Government people up front will tell you they see the value of their work, but the decision has been taken.”

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