Thursday, July 5, 2018

NGO-ization of Pakistan

Pakistan has seen more than 10-fold increase in the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the country since 911. There is now one NGO per 2000 Pakistanis. A large slice of the billions of dollars in American aid to Pakistan has been funneled through these non-government organizations (NGOs). This has been particularly true since the passage of Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid bill in 2009 that tripled civilian aid to Pakistan from $500 million to $1.5 billion a year. Most of these new NGOs are not likely to survive the planned US aid cuts to Pakistan by the Trump Administration.

NGO Proliferation: 

Pakistan has been massively NGO-ized since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, according to data compiled by Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP), a certification organization for non-government organizations (NGOs) and charity institutions. The number of NGOs has exploded from 10,000-12,000 in 2001 (source: Aga Khan Civil Society Index) to 100,000-150,000 mostly foreign-funded NGOs in 2016 as estimated by PCP

NGOs Justification:

Why is there one NGO for every 2,000 Pakistanis? The usual justification for NGOs is that these organizations fill the gaps in services left by the state. An obvious example of such an organization is Edhi Foundation.

Edhi Foundation is widely recognized as a domestically funded legitimate NGO that provides badly needed emergency and other critical services in the remotest corners of Pakistan.  Anatol Lieven, author of "Pakistan: A Hard Country" wrote the following about Edhi Foundation:

"There is no sight in Pakistan more moving than to visit some dusty, impoverished small town in an arid wasteland, apparently abandoned by God and all sensible men and certainly abandoned by the Pakistani state and its elected representatives - and to see the flag of Edhi Foundation flying over a concrete shack with a telephone, and the only ambulance in town standing in front. Here, if anywhere in Pakistan, lies the truth of human religion and human morality."  

There are many many foreign-funded, mostly US-funded, NGOs whose work is not as visible and their funding and activities lack transparency.

US Aid Boost in Pakistan:

The United States decided to increase civilian aid to Pakistan after the 911 attacks. A big part of this aid was funneled through non-government organizations. This was particularly true after Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid bill in 2009 that tripled civilian aid to Pakistan from $500 million to $1.5 billion a year.

Why does the United States choose to funnel aid through NGOs? The answer to this question can be found in the following excerpt from a US State Department document:

"We will reach beyond governments to offer a place at the table to groups and citizens willing to shoulder a fair share of the burden. Our efforts to engage beyond the state begin with outreach to civil society--activists, organizations, congregations, journalists who work through peaceful means to make their countries better. While civil society is varied, many groups have common goals with the United States, and working with civil society be effective and efficient path to advance our foreign policy goals". (DoS, 2010, pp 21-22)

The notable part of this statement is that the NGOs represent an "effective and efficient path to advance our foreign policy goals". These US goals are not necessarily the same as the interests of the countries where these NGOs operate.

Tools of Imperialism?

In "Confessions of an Economic Hitman", author John Perkins has detailed his own experience as an EHM (economic hit man) to control and exploit resources of developing nations for the benefit of major US corporations. Perkins says EHMs like him persuade leaders of target countries to hire their firms to do the projects at highly inflated costs which are financed by the World Bank, USAID and regional development banks. The borrowed money and the natural resources extracted flow to the coffers of US corporations while the developing countries are left under heavy debt. The leaders who refuse to cooperate with EHMs are overthrown or assassinated by "Jackals" (Perkins term for CIA agents). If the jackals fail, the US military invades the countries in defiance to bring them to heel.

Many believe that proliferating western-funded NGOs are the latest tools in America's toolbox described by John Perkins in his book. NGOs are seen as a cheaper alternative to military invasions to achieve desired outcomes in developing countries.

CIA-NGO Collaboration:

In 2011, the US CIA used a Pakistani doctor working with Save the Children NGO to conduct a fake vaccination campaign in KP in search of Usama Bin Laden's whereabouts.  This revelation caused a major setback to Pakistan's efforts to eradicate polio and harmed many children who went unvaccinated.

As recently as in 2014, the New York Times reported that  USAID Office of Transition Initiatives works with the C.I.A. on hi-tech propaganda and destabilization programs in developing nations.

Professionalization of NGOs:

Well funded NGOs are capitalizing and professionalizing activism. Instead of organizing the masses at the grass-roots level to fight for their interests, NGOs are being accused of using them for their own benefit.

American activist Stephanie McMillan from South Florida describes the process of modern NGO creation in the following words:

"For those of us involved in organizing, there is an eerily familiar pattern: Some atrocity happens, outraged people pour into the streets, and once together, someone announces a meeting to follow up and continue the struggle. At this meeting, several experienced organizers seem to be in charge. These activists open with radical language and offer to provide training and a regular meeting space. They seem to already have a plan figured out, whereas everyone else has barely had time to think about the next step. The activists exude competence, explaining—with diagrams—how to map out potential allies, as they craft a list of specific politicians (or others) to target with protests."

NGO Shake-out:

The lion's share of NGO funding is likely to dry up with the Trump Administration's decision to significantly cut aid to Pakistan. It is likely that many NGOs, particularly those reliant on US funds, will not survive. This will cause a major shake-out in Pakistan's NGO industry. Some of the money will likely still be pumped into the country by the CIA but it is unlikely to make up for the lost aid money.

This will not affect legitimate NGOs like Edhi Foundation which is almost entirely funded by donations in Pakistan by Pakistanis.


Pakistan has seen more than 10-fold increase in the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the country since 911. There is now one NGO per 2000 Pakistanis. A large slice of billions of dollars in US aid has been funneled through non-government organizations. This was particularly true after Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid bill in 2009 that tripled civilian aid to Pakistan from $500 million to $1.5 billion a year. Most of these new NGOs are not likely to survive the planned US aid cuts to Pakistan by the Trump Administration.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Hollywood: America's Unofficial Ministry of Propaganda

Free Speech: Myth or Reality?

Social Media Tribalism

Social Media: Blessing or Curse For Pakistan?

Planted Stories in Media

Indian BJP Troll Farm

Kulbhushan Jadhav Caught in Balochistan

The Story of Pakistan's M8 Motorway

Pakistan-China-Russia vs India-Japan-US

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel


Habibullah said...

It is high time that the authorities in Pakistan should investigate the activities of NGOs specially the foreign funded NGOs and close them immediately if their activities are serving interests of some one else other than Pakistan !

Nazir L. said...

It would be a blessing for Pakistan if Trump does cut US aid as these NGOs are fronts for CIA which destabilizes and aids in marauding resources of the country. Also, most of the so called "Aid Money" goes to pay salaries of highly paid expatriate Program Managers, bribing politicians, etc. while only miniscule amount trickles down to the needy.

Anonymous said...

Hello Riaz Saab,

NGOs' are tool of West to impose their ideology on poor countries.

India is worse, 1 NGO per 600 people.There is joke of India has got more NGOs' than Toilets.

They cause havoc in India by organizing massive protests and oppose new power plants.

Anonymous said...

Much bigger problem.

Riaz Haq said...

US funding for Pakistani journalists raises questions of transparency
US State Department funding, supplied through a nonprofit intermediary, supports the presence of two Pakistani journalists in Washington. Some observers say the relationship should be more transparent.

By Issam Ahmed, Correspondent SEPTEMBER 2, 2011

Two Pakistani journalists filing reports home from Washington are quietly drawing their salaries from US State Department funding through a nonprofit intermediary, highlighting the sophisticated nature of America’s efforts to shape its image abroad.

Neither of the two media organizations, Express News and Dunya News, discloses that their reporters are paid by the nonprofit America Abroad Media (AAM) on their websites or in the reports filed by their correspondents. Though the journalists have worked under the auspices of AAM since February, AAM only made their links to the news organizations known on their website Wednesday, after being contacted by the Monitor.

The lack of transparency by the Pakistani organizations involved could heighten Pakistani mistrust of the US government, which is seen as having an undue level of influence in their country’s affairs.

“If an American journalist working as a foreign correspondent in Pakistan was paid in a similar manner, would it be morally or professionally acceptable for his news organization or audience?” asks Badar Alam, editor of Pakistan’s prestigious English-language Herald magazine.

The amount currently allocated for the project is some $2 million over two years from the public diplomacy funds allocated by the State Department, according to State Department officials in Washington familiar with the project. That includes salaries for the two correspondents – Huma Imtiaz of Express News and Awais Saleem of Dunya News – and a bureau for both TV channels.

Aaron Lobel, president of AAM, says his organization receives donations from a number of private funders, too, which it mainly spends on its programs on international affairs that run on Public Radio International in the United States.

The timing of AAM’s website disclosure – after contact from the Monitor – was a coincidence and the update had been planned for “several months,” he says. “We are a small organization with two web guys. They are really working hard on the new site – not just about the Pakistan project but on everything we do. Yes, it would have been better to have a lot of information [before]. We have been preparing this site for a long time to provide that information.”

“The content production is done first and foremost [by] Pakistanis who are here and work with their channels back home to produce content,” says Lobel.

Riaz Haq said...

Aid charities ActionAid and Plan 'to be turfed out' of #Pakistan. Pakistan's #intelligence services have viewed #NGOs with increased suspicion since the discovery in 2011 of a fake vaccination program in Pak run by the #CIA to track down Osama bin Laden.

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.

Riaz Haq said...

Billions Going to Foreign Aid in Spending Bill: ‘Gender Programs’ in Pakistan, Sri Lankan Ship Refurbishments

For some countries, Christmas came early:

$169,739,000 to Vietnam, including $19 million to remediate dioxins (page 1476).
Unspecified funds to “continue support for not-for-profit institutions of higher education in Kabul, Afghanistan that are accessible to both women and men in a coeducational environment” (page 1477).
$198,323,000 to Bangladesh, including $23.5 million to support Burmese refugees and $23.3 million for “democracy programs” (page 1485).
$130,265,000 to Nepal for “development and democracy programs” (page 1485).
Pakistan: $15 million for “democracy programs” and $10 million for “gender programs” (page 1486).
Sri Lanka: Up to $15 million “for the refurbishing of a high endurance cutter,” which is a type of patrol boat (page 1489).
$505,925,000 to Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama to “address key factors that contribute to the migration of unaccompanied, undocumented minors to the United States” (pages 1490-1491).
$461,375,000 to Colombia for programs related to counternarcotics and human rights (pages 1494-1496).
$74.8 million to the “Caribbean Basin Security Initiative” (page 1498).
$33 million “for democracy programs for Venezuela” (page 1498).
Unspecified amount to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Curacao, and Trinidad and Tobago “for assistance for communities in countries supporting or otherwise impacted by refugees from Venezuela” (page 1499).
$132,025,000 “for assistance for Georgia” (page 1499).
$453 million “for assistance for Ukraine” (page 1500).