Accusing non-governmental organisations (NGOs) of working against Kohistani tribal customs, local clerics have decided in principle to expel them from the district.
“We have given the NGOs until June 29 to pack up,” Maulvi Karimdad, a local cleric and son of former MNA Maulana Abdul Haleem, told The Express Tribune on Tuesday.
He said a meeting of Ulema was held in Badakot Kamela village Monday evening, with Maulana Haleem in the chair, to discuss the emerging situation especially following the Kohistan video scandal.
The meeting, which was attended by over 85 prayer leaders from across four tehsils of Kohistan district, expressed their concern over the scandal that ensued after the footage surfaced of four Kohistani girls singing at a wedding with men.
The clerics were of the view that the scandal brought a bad name to the centuries-old tribal customs and religious norms.
They blamed NGO workers for launching a campaign against Kohsitani customs and Islamic codes, adding that despite repeated warnings they did not stop ‘hatching conspiracies’ against the Kohistani Ulema and their customs.
“Whatever humiliation the tribes of Kohistan have faced in the last fortnight is part of the conspiracies of NGOs,” said Maulvi Karimdad.
He added that another meeting would be held on June 29, after which they would give a final warning to the NGOs to wind up and leave the district or else face consequences. However, he said the clerics have no plans on using force against the NGOs.
Criticising the role of NGOs, Karimdad said that while the organisations get billions of rupees for development in education, health and infrastructure, they hardly spend any money on the people in Kohistan.
He claimed that NGOs have not contributed towards poverty alleviation and development in health or education, and added that Kohistan was a resource-rich district where people were not poor.
He also suggested donors to channel funds through the government and local clerics rather than to people from outside the district.
Maulana Haleem had earlier warned NGO women during a Friday sermon to stay away from Kohistan otherwise those who were single would forcibly be married off to Kohistani boys and those married would be sent back to their husbands.
He accused NGO women of spreading obscenity and misguiding Kohistani women.
Meanwhile, Mirza Khan who serves as district coordinator for an NGO working in the health sector, said the communication gap between the local clerics, civil society and administration, needed to be bridged.
He said expelling NGOs from Kohistan would render hundreds of local youth jobless and deprive the district of development.
Khan suggested that a joint committee comprising local clerics, civil society and people from the local administration should oversee the activities of NGOs.
When approached for comments, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA from Kohistan Abdul Sattar Khan said that since NGOs were working for the wellbeing of Kohistanis they would be provided full security.
However, he also stressed the need for NGO staff to strictly follow local customs. Kohistan DCO Syed Aqil Badshah was not available for comments.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.