WEBDESK: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced last week the first-ever policy to regulate the affairs of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) in this country. A look at some of the measures shows a troubling lack of oversight up till now.
The new policy would regulate the registration, working funds, monitoring and other aspects pertaining to all types of INGOs. Approved INGOs will be registered by the Interior Ministry for specific fields of work and areas of operations following consultation with provincial and federal authorities in line with the needs of the country.
They will be required to have their financial audit conducted by auditors approved by an INGOs committee, and declare all foreign funds along with terms and conditions of those funds as well as details of all their bank accounts.
The new rules cannot be welcomed enough. As many as 127 INGOs are reported to be operating in this country either directly or indirectly through local organisations. Indeed, many of them are rendering valuable services promoting education, healthcare and women’s and workers’ rights.
Yet many foreign-funded aid and sectarian organisations have their own agendas to fulfil. They have been offering vehement resistance to registration and audit. Notably, back in 2013 INGOs receiving foreign financial contributions were directed to register themselves, only 19 complied with. The rest ignored repeated reminders. Needless to say, if not involved in any objectionable activity they should have had no qualms about doing as directed.
The minister pointed to dangers inherent in some INGOs activities when he warned any engagement in money laundering, terrorist financing, weapons smuggling, anti-sate activities or maintenance of links with proscribed organisations would lead to cancellation of registration. The warning clearly is aimed at various organisations receiving money from abroad to sharpen sectarian divisions through violent means and creating chaos which is used by interested outsiders to destabilise this country.
Otherwise well-regarded Western INGOs are not above board, either. It may be recalled that back in June last, the interior ministry had ordered a British-based charity, ‘Save the Children’, to stop its operations in Pakistan and sealing of its offices, accusing it along with some other unnamed INGOs of working against Pakistan’s interest.
The exact cause of the action was not given. Considering that earlier in 2011 reports linked the charity with Dr Shakil Afridi’s use of a fake anti-polio campaign as a cover to obtain Osama bin Laden’s DNA, it is not difficult to guess what the cause of shutting down of its operations might have been.
Although, the order was later reversed at the intervention of Britain and the US, the concern about the activities of that and INGOs stays. Apparently, it is to guard against any such eventuality in future that the new policy says INGOs will be obliged to provide any information that the government may require from time to time, and those not fulfilling disclosure requirements will be proceeded against.
All the new rules are necessary to achieve transparency in the working of the NGO sector. It would be equally desirable for the government to maintain transparency in its own working by making public a fact-sheet about any wrongdoers in future.