Types of Nonprofits in Pakistan

Cersai Stark

Cersai Stark

Charitable giving and philanthropy in Pakistan is unlike many countries. Religious underpinnings seem to be the bane that shapes and influences the various types of nonprofits in the country.

The heavy criticism that follows the activities of modern NGO practices asides from religious laws has created a system that has weakened the sector. Service delivery, most especially family planning programs and girls’ education are rather counteracted as activities that threaten the country’s religious ideologies.

This issue of ideological divide posed by a strong polarization between religious and modern or what is rather called secular organizations has created an undercurrent of tension. This further leads to an unhealthy social environment. NGOs cannot thrive with religion as the foremost driving force behind the establishment of nonprofits.

In this article, we will consider the various types of nonprofit entities in Pakistan and their operations.


Types of nonprofits in Pakistan
Types of nonprofits


  • Pakistan has over 45,000 nonprofit organizations in the country.
  • Less than 20% of nonprofits take part in civil rights and advocacy.
  • Heavy criticism follows the activities of modern NGO practices asides from religious laws in the country


What are the Types of Nonprofits in Pakistan?

The types of nonprofits in Pakistan can be grouped into three segments based on their role in the community. 

1. Welfare-Oriented Organizations: 

These types of nonprofits constitute a large portion of the sector. Welfare-oriented organizations provide services in the area of welfare, benefits, and societal advancement to a group or large part of society. 

These nonprofit entities participate in several activities. However, volunteerism and welfare-oriented duties constitute the bulk of their work. They are made up of small entities and village committees. They also comprise large organizations such as welfare associations and societies established to provide education, health and civic responsibilities to the citizens at the national level. 

2. Religious Organizations: 

The second non-profit segment in Pakistan are religious organizations. These types of nonprofits provide religious education. Their services may also involve providing shelter and food to some students. A large number of religious nonprofits also take part in expressive activities such as religious law advocacy.  

3. Development-Oriented Organizations: 

This third segment of NPS are also referred to as ‘secular’ organizations. These types of nonprofits function as social service delivery charities.

A few nonprofits in this category are also involved in expressive functions. This includes advocacy for human rights majorly the rights of women and political education. A large part of these organisations gain revenues from international donors. 

The above-listed types of nonprofits can theoretically be described as NGOs. This is however not the case in Pakistani society. The term NGO is used to describe relatively modern nonprofits advocating what they refer to as secular causes. This may include freedom of speech, freedom of association, as well as basic human rights.

This conflict of polarization between religious and modern nonprofits still exists in this critically pious nation. 

How many Nonprofits are in Pakistan?

Pakistan has over 45,000 nonprofit organizations in the country. Less than 20% of nonprofits take part in civil rights and advocacy. Also, 2% of the civil rights and advocacy nonprofits are involved in human rights activities. Everything western is often considered suspicious in the Pakistani nation. Hence, there is rather little information to garner on the progress of the various nonprofit organizations in the country. 

The Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC), a Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project carried out a survey of nonprofits in Pakistan. This however proved futile as the research was limited due to the stringent system of the country. 

Dr Javed Akbar Ansari, a religious dogmatist and economist, insisted that the survey intended to obtain information on religious activities and madrassahs. He claimed the information would be wielded by Islam adversaries against religious nonprofits. The ‘rigidly patriarchal society’ poses a scourge in the advancement of nonprofits in Pakistan.


As with most developing countries, Pakistan has recorded an increase in the number and growth of nonprofits. This has however not resulted in evolutionary changes. The closed system in which the sector operates and the lack of diversity proves an impediment to nonprofit development in Pakistan.

Societal advancement has spurred changes in the role of nonprofits. However, the lack of flexibility given to NGOs in Pakistan has resulted in a primordial system. There is an urgent need to counteract sentimentalism as that is the major obstacle to the sector’s growth.

If you enjoyed reading this article but still have questions for us, please share your questions with us at the bottom of this post.

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