London: UK bilateral aid spending in Pakistan has dramatically decreased since 2016, said a British Foreign Office report that linked the dwindling British assistance with human rights issues.

"It is vital that UK aid partners understand the aims and strategy of UK aid in Pakistan in order to carry out their work as effectively as possible. Aid programs are most effective when different donors ensure that they complement each other in a joined-up approach. Our evidence suggested that this isn't always the case in Pakistan," said a report by International Development Committee.

The report, released in April, states the UK government should direct its bilateral spending in Pakistan strategically towards supporting marginalised groups to reach their full potential.

According to the report, there is a shrinking space for NGOs in Pakistan, which are seen as promoting a foreign agenda. The restrictions on and harassment towards NGOs in Pakistan threaten the success of UK aid programs there.

"The FCDO should work with the Pakistani Government and use diplomatic means to ensure that INGOs and NGOs, especially the UK's aid partners, are able to undertake development work in the country without barriers. The FCDO should write to the Committee within nine months to update us on their progress in this area," it said.

The report states that UK aid programs focused on supporting the development of an open society "do not always fit" with the policy objectives of the Pakistani Government.

However, progress in this area is key to supporting other core elements of UK development work in Pakistan, such as improving opportunities for women and girls and minorities.

"However, the Committee are aware that there has been a change in the federal government in Pakistan, and it is not yet clear how the newly formed Government will address the challenges," it said.

The report further argues that the UK Government should maintain dialogue with the Pakistani Government on the importance of an open society, including the need for civic spaces and religious and media freedom.

"As part of this, the FCDO should increase support to Pakistan's National Commission on the Status of Women and its National Commission on Human Rights," it added.