The case of NGOs in Pakistan

    How many nongovernmental organizations are working in Pakistan?

    Former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan William Milam, in his book, “Bangladesh and Pakistan: Flirting with Failure in South Asia,” said the country, despite having 180 million people, has few NGOs. And Seth Kaplan of the Global Dashboard has posited a few reasons on why this is so.

    Kaplan said the case might be rooted to the nature and diversity of the Pakistani society. He said societies like Pakistan are dominated by clans and their citizens are not inclined to give to organizations run by people they do not have any relations with. He also said ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity in Pakistan makes it difficult for NGOs to expand in other areas.

    Another possible reason is the nature of institutions that spring up in the country. Kaplan said many organizations in Pakistan are linked to the state, which puts a strain on their independence. He said capable individuals need to develop a strong organization to widen their reach.

    Kaplan also cited the Pakistan army’s decadelong domination of the political system. In the years when the country was under military dictatorship, the state tried to eliminate or discredit NGOs it saw as a threat.

    Whatever the reason may be, Kaplan said building the capacity of the more successful NGOs and establishing new ones should be a priority of donors if they wish to boost NGO growth in societies like Pakistan.

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    About the author

    • Jenny Lei Ravelo

      Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.