The news that a dozen and a half NGOs have been asked to leave, has cast a gloom over the liberal world in Pakistan. More so, another twenty NGOs too are about to be shunted out.
Pinky Gutterwala, chairperson of the Progressive Front for the Emancipation of Women, an American-financed NGO, is on the phone with Chinky Akhroti, founder and president of the Society for the Promotion of Modern Social Trends (PMST), a British-financed NGO.
“Chinks, this is terrible! I had these three seminars lined up in Venice, Amsterdam and Los Angeles… all paid for, of course,” lamented Gutterwala.
“Pinky, imagine, you are crying over three seminars, I had every summer booked for the observation of modern social trends in the French Riviera. It was so lovely there,” sighed Akhroti.
“Chinks, we are crying for our trips, ask poor Aafat Ustara… you have met him. He has this Organization for Molding the Muslim Mind, which likes to call “Ommm as in the Hindi Om! His British backers were very generous. In his Christmas wish list, he had asked for three Range Rovers to reach far flung Muslim settlements … but between us, he told me that one was for him, one for his wife and one for their son, who got his license last week. So now poor fellow has no Range Rovers and not even a job!
“Even in my PFME, I had had so many supervisory staff… you know giving jobs means buying loyalties,” confided Gutterwala.
“Pinks, I am really getting this depression… I see it coming… you know that I never recycled my bags and glasses… with so many seminars to attend in so many capitals, you would never be off trend,” lamented Akhroti.
“I hate this government. They too much into this dignity… this not being hired guns… and that love for country and all that…” Gutterwala sighed and continued, “Poor Aafat told me that he met with the EU [European Union] representative to ask him to invoke the GSP Plus [Generalized Scheme of Preferences that allows vulnerable developing countries to pay fewer or no duties on exports to the EU] to save us… but this government told him that INGOs are not a part of the agreement! He was also told to get the facts straight and EU needs to stop going beyond the GSP Plus mandate in making demands! The minister served him a biscuit and a glass of water and told him that his interference is not acceptable!
“Poor Catholic Relief Services and World Vision tried to lobby that they are well known reputable international organizations. You know what they were told, ‘oh wow, so using aid as façade to do missionary work is moral!’ The poor guy was left speechless. I don’t know what it means but someone was telling me that this sort of undercover work is really trying to create fifth column loyal to their sponsoring countries.”
Akhroti, with tears welling up, offered, “We are being told that INGOs were spreading foreign agenda and creating difficulties for our security institutions. How do I know, I only did what our sponsors in Brussels told us.
“Did you hear that it is even being said that INGOs play with religious and moral sentiments and use them to destroy our social structure and law and order situations? So this what my sponsor wanted and that is why we call ourselves, Society for the Promotion of Modern Social Trends.
“You know there is this Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Programs at the Washington-based Wilson Center, who wrote ‘While Pakistan certainly isn’t the only country to be curtailing the activities of charitable groups, the reputational impacts could be particularly strong because it has a pre-existing image problem.’
“It is so depressing that now we now have a stubborn, bullheaded man… this Imran Khan who will keep striving in spite of this!”
Gutterwala offers, “Aafat Ustara used to invite me their dinners and there were always a bunch of foreigners. He told me that they were all on his visa. But now the government says that the U.S. and European countries secretly brought spies into the country under the guise of aid workers.
“Imagine, Imran Khan has a minister of human rights but won’t let overseas human rights organizations to teach us about their concepts.
“Aafat told me that next, the government will go after local organizations who receive international funding.
“Imagine all those dinners… all those lunches… all those seminars… I tell you all good hotels and restaurants would be shedding tears now.”
“Pinks, I don’t care whatever, but I would say, Oh God there go our free trips!”