South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK) came into being in 1987, just one year since the lifting of martial law from Pakistan. The stifling political and social environment therefore acutely necessitated that civil society be developed and strengthened. Keeping that critical need in view, a group of intellectuals and social activists laid the foundation of SAP-PK. The objective of the organization was to enable the poorest of Pakistan raise their voice for their rights.
To attain the stated objective, SAP-PK worked on different projects with the participation of international organizations. The results of those endeavors were sometimes according to expectations and sometimes not. But, from the very outset SAP-PK had known it could only achieve its objective after a long and trying struggle; a struggle that could not be successful without the cooperation of local organizations. So, applying itself to raising the capacity of small local civil society organizations, SAP-PK successfully and, in a very short time, raised a crop of effective individuals and organizations across Pakistan. That initiative became well known in Pakistan and South Asia as Resource Development Program (RDP). That program was yearlong, aiming to develop capacities of the community based organizations in community needs assessment, project planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, reporting, resource mobilization, financial management, gender, etc. Its cycle catered to the needs of the development workers from clarity about terms such as “development” to the field application of their experiences.
SAP-PK conducted RDP for fourteen years, from 1991 onwards. During that time, SAP-PK trained over five hundred organizations and supported many community based model projects for the empowerment of the people. A striking majority of the organizations who were trained and technically and financially supported by SAP-PK are still operational in the field and working in collaboration with SAP-PK as and when required. For example, after the inception of Local Government System in 2000, SAP-PK along with 6 other national organizations implemented a Democratic Rights and Citizens’ Education Program (DRCEP 2000-2003) in 87 districts of Pakistan. Other than voter’s education, candidates’ facilitation and election monitoring in more than 2100 polling stations was also carried out under that program. SAP-PK implemented its part with the assistance of the RDP graduates. Similarly, many RDP graduate organizations partnered with SAP-PK in another program ‘Democracy and Human Rights Program (DHRP)’ during 2002 and 2003. In that program, SAP-PK worked in 42 districts with political parties, media minority groups and human rights organizations for highlighting rights-based agenda of the citizens especially women, minorities with an emphasis on peasants, workers and other marginalized groups. The organization also conducted election monitoring in 40 districts during the general elections of 2003 with the help of the same. In 2006, a major chunk of RDP graduates in 110 districts of Pakistan again worked with SAP-PK and its other national partner organizations in a similar project, namely, Pakistan Coalition for Free, Fair and Democratic Elections (PACFREL). In this project, SAP-PK trained about 2100 individuals from across Pakistan in election monitoring and observation. These individuals fulfilled their duties on election days and rolled out their reports.
In 2004, SAP-PK underwent a strategic review. As the result of that extensive exercise, SAP-PK opted for working with peasants, workers, women, religious minorities and political workers, directly in its mission to contribute in a grass roots movement of the marginalized people for their empowerment and policy advocacy. The spread of SAP-PK’s work though limited its role of financial support to the community based projects of the partner organizations, but increased its growth and efficiency of its presence.
From 2005 onwards, SAP-PK has been operating through four provinces of Pakistan and working side by side with various partner organizations, locally and globally. These partner organizations come from the same cadre that SAP-PK once trained under its RDP program.