INGOs ‘can operate until decision on their appeals’

ISLAMABAD: Just when the deadline for international non-governmental organisations to wind up their operations in the country approaches near, the interior ministry has announced that those bodies who have appealed against the decision can continue to carry on their work.

The deadline to pack up operations for 21 INGOs is going to end on January 25, 2018 and already some organiastions have started to wind up their activities.

On Wednesday, the interior ministry allowed ‘disapproved INGOs’ to continue carrying out their work till a final decision is taken on their appeals filed with the ministry and the Economic Affairs Division.

According to the ministry, Minister Ahsan Iqbal issued the orders keeping in view the present operational affairs of the INGOs and the country’s image at international level.

As per the ministry’s order, the INGOs are entitled to appeal within 90 days after rejection of their registration. “If the appeal is rejected, the INGOs will have to leave the country within 60 days,” it stated.

The interior ministry on November 27, 2017 issued orders to 21 INGOs for winding up their operations. The number of INGOs which have filed appeal is not known.

According to an official of the ministry, the flexibility came after the INGOs approached different government departments, urging them to not take such decision in ‘haste’.

“Several foreign missions approached the Prime Minister Office and the Foreign Office for assistance in this regard,” said the official.

Right after coming into power, the incumbent government on November 2013 approved a policy for regulation of non-government organisations (NGOs) receiving foreign contributions to ensure transparent utilisation of funds and to streamline their activities.

Under the policy, all INGOs that previously operated on no-objection certificates issued by the government now needed a separate registration.

Unnecessary crackdown against NGOs

The decision was especially taken after security agencies expressed serious reservations about the operations of several organisations, particularly in areas where military operations were being conducted or near border areas.

Meanwhile, a delegation of foreign envoys called on the interior minister and discussed the issue of INGOs working in the country.

The delegation comprised Ambassador of European Union to Pakistan Jean Francois Cautain, US Ambassador David Hale, Australian High Commissioner Margaret Adamson, Canadian Ambassador Perry Calderwood, Norwegian Ambassador Tore Nedrebo and British High Commissioner Thomas Drew.

In the meeting, the minister asserted that INGOs play a vital role in the development sector and areas like eradication of poverty and disease from country and their contribution in Pakistan for social economic development and uplift is always welcomed and commendable.

However, the peculiar circumstances in Pakistan call for monitoring the operations and funding sources of INGOs to ensure that no extremism-related NGO is able to secure foreign funding.

The minister said that the applications of INGOs rejected for registration have mostly been done on the grounds of non-compliance with the requisite registration process. He added that the criteria for the registration process of INGOs will be transparent and applicable across the board.

Foreign NGOs in Pakistan working in ‘unauthorised areas’: State Minster for Interior Affairs

The minister stated that the registration policy has been revised and now the INGOs whose applications were not approved can operate in Pakistan until the final decision on the appeals of INGOs is taken.

If the appeal of any INGO is rejected by the appellate authority, then it will have to close its operations from Pakistan within sixty days.

The minister also said that Pakistan hosts 3.5 million Afghan refugees and added that it is also the collective responsibility of international community to join hands with Pakistan to speed up repatriation process of Afghan refugees to home in order to help in peace building efforts.

Farhatullah Babar says the matter regarding working with INGOs should have been brought before parliament

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