On April 10, 2013, police officials in the company of a magistrate raided the project office of AGHE in Skardu, the district of the highest peak of the country, K2, Gilgit-Baltistan, and took over control of office. The officials ordered the staff to vacate the office immediately and when they enquired as to the reason the officials presented the order of the SP to seal the office. They also threatened and harassed the staff which included female members.
However, the actions of the administrations did not stop at closing down the offices and stopping the activities but also extended to threatening the female staff to provide information about the funding.
They were called on different occasions by various government agencies, particularly an intelligence agency and were asked questions about USAID and its program and future interventions etc. They were also pressurized to disclose the passwords of their official and private emails. The intelligence officials have also revealed the content of conversations of telephone calls made to their staff, their friends and relatives.
This is a clear indication that in GB the agencies are tapping the telephones and intercepting the emails of ordinary citizens.
The AGHE has challenged the orders of the government of GB in the High Court which awarded a stay order and stopped the government from taking further action against the organization.
However, despite this stay order from the High Court the police officials have sealed the office at Skardu.
Please see the attached link to a newspaper article on the matter:
This is not the first time that police and special branch officials have forcibly entered the project office, tried to stop the work and harass the employees and other visitors. This was, in fact, the third time the police have raided the office. Please see documents showing newspaper articles and official notices.
Before this latest raid the authorities also raided the office of AGHE in another city, Gilgit, when a 3-day capacity building program for the community networks was being carried out under the Citizens’ Voice Project during the 2nd week of March, 2013. This raid was also conducted in the same fashion in that a magistrate with police officials arrived at the training hall and ordered a halt to the activities. However, at the protest of the participants and intervention of some media persons the magistrate left the place after giving them a warning.
On March 25, the Assistant Commissioner (AC) Gilgit, who is also the Registration Authority of NGOs issued two orders against the AGHE. The first one was a Show Cause Notice which was issued before noon and instructed the organization to suspend their activities. However, within two hours and before the organisation had the opportunity to respond another order was delivered to cease all activities. In fact, the authorities back-dated the orders and delivered them by hand on the 29th March.
It is said generally in the Gilgit Baltistan that the administration is particularly targeting the USAID funded project titled Citizens’ Voice for Effective Legislative Governance in Gilgit-Baltistan. The reason is suspected to be that the project avoided the normal red tape and did provide kick-backs to the officials. It is worth mentioning here that the project from USAID was given to AGHE after the organisation took part in a funding proposal that was open to other NGOs.
Another suspected reason to stop the activities of the AGHE is the Muslim fundamentalists, who have a number of training camps in the GB and are involved in sectarian killings of persons from Shia sect. The fundamentalists are provoking anti-west sentiments and pressurizing the authorities to take action against USAID funded activities.