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Civil society groups cite harassment from Punjab officials

Development organizations feel they are being treated as if they are doing something wrong

October 7, 2016

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Pakistani church organizations were among civil society members at a meeting in Lahore on Oct. 6 where the Punjab provincial government was criticized for interfering with the work of social workers.

Both Muslim and Christian leaders condemned a recent circular issued by the provincial government that restricts the activities of human rights and development organizations from operating without a "no objection certificate."

The circular states that civil organizations cannot hold any kind of activity, seminar, conference and research without written approval from the Home Department.

Muhammad Tahseen from the Pakistan Civil Society Forum, which organized the event, said that what is being required of them by the authorities is a new form of martial law.

"Development organizations are being scuffled instead of being encouraged for providing education, health, skills and clean water," said Tahseen.

"Intelligence officers are now visiting offices of NGOs every week asking for project details and staff profiles," he said.

"Especially women led organizations are being harassed and asked to share all contact numbers. There is no such pressure on madrassas (Islamic seminaries). We are not terrorists."

Others at the meeting shared challenges faced in their civil society projects.

Representatives from Caritas Pakistan Islamabad-Rawalpindi and the Pakistani bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace were among the church groups attending the event.

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