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November 6, 2018

Ministry directed to present policy for regulation of INGOs before cabinet for approval


November 6, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights, on Monday, directed the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to present the policy framework for the regulation of International Non-Government Organisation (INGOs) before the Cabinet for approval.

Held under the Chairmanship of Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the meeting discussed in detail the matter of the recent notification issued by MoI to 18 INGOs asking them to halt their operations in the country and wind up their operations in two months. The INGOs are allowed to reapply for registration after six months. Chairman Functional Committee directed the MoI to inform INGOs about the reasons which led to the decision of closing their operations. He also directed MoI to include Ministry of Human Rights in the Representative Committee that is dealing with the matter registration of INGOs in the Ministry of Interior.

“We have observed that the due process has not been followed in cancelling the registration of INGOs. They were never informed about the reasons behind this decision, which is a violation of the basic rules of justice,” remarked Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar. He said that as the case is under hearing in the Supreme Court, the comments and suggestion of Functional Committee shall be submitted to Supreme Court.

He said that INGOs have spent $ 483 million in social sector during the last year and thousands of people were employed by these international organizations. “Provincial governments have limited funds for social development and they were supported by these INGOs. Closure of these INGOs further limits the resources of provincial governments,” he added. Senator Sana Jamali said that INGOs have stopped supporting projects in Balochistan because of the recent restrictions.

Responding to the queries of committee members, Additional Secretary Ministry of Interior M Saddiq claimed that due process was followed in taking the said decision. He said that the government realizes and acknowledges the importance of INGOs’ contributions and no INGO was banned.

“Only those INGO which were violating their mandate were asked to wind up their operations and reapply after six months, after they mend their projects and operations according to the policy framework formulated in 2015 to regulate the INGOs,” he said.

Briefing the committee members about the background, the MoI representative said that before 2015, there was no regulation of INGOs “After an INGO Save the Children was found involved in Osama bin Ladin’s incident, the monitoring and regulation of INGOs was shifted to Ministry of Interior from Economic Affairs Division.”

M Saddiq said that there is a representative committee formed in MoI which deals with monitoring and regulation of INGOs. The Committee has representation from Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and security agencies. “The permission to operate in the country depends upon the feedback of the members of representative committee.”

He said that among the total, 72 INGOs were granted permission to work in Pakistan whereas 27 were asked to close their activities but were given the right to appeal. “Only 18 INGOs decided to appeal and their cases were heard by the Representative Committee. They are still not banned or stopped from working in Pakistan. They are allowed to reapply after six months,” he said.

The representatives of INGOs said that they were never informed about the reasons behind the decision of closing their operations. They said that the allegation of involvement in unwanted activities could damage their world image. They said that INGOs working in the country have to get separate NOCs for each and every activity which requires 47 signatures by different federal and provincial departments despite the fact that same activities are approved in the annual action plan by the same departments. They suggested forming a separate body to deal with the issues faced by INGOs.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said that around the world, INGOs have to follow policies of the government and law of land and. She said that some INGOs were found involved in the mapping of areas that come under internal security domain. She pointed out that certain INGOs were more inclined towards advocacy, consultations and conferences rather than socio economic uplift. She agreed that MoI shall provide INGOs with the reasons behind closure of their activities in the country.

Earlier, while discussing the agenda of enforced disappearances, the Functional Committee decided to call the next meeting on the issue of criminalization of enforced disappearance. The Committee members also discussed the importance of having improved domestic legislation on enforced disappearance.

A representative of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) briefed the Committee Members regarding the establishment of interim centers for missing persons. Chairman Functional Committee directed the other provincial governments to submit the details of interim centers. The Committee decided to visit the KP center to meet the victims of enforced disappearance.

Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said that the Prime Minister is very concerned about the issue of enforced disappearance and government plans to take policy measures to address the issue. She said that Pakistan can sign the International Convention on Enforced Disappearances with three reservations considering the security situation in the country.

On the issue of the high fee structure of private schools, the Committee decided to hold its comments till the case is under hearing in Supreme Court and National Commission on Human Rights. Parents present in the Committee meeting appealed the Senates Functional suggest including the issue harassment of students of private school for not paying the fees and the unregulated environment and syllabus of these schools in the case.

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