ISLAMABAD: Disagreeing with the views of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on the international non-government organisations (INGOs), his predecessor Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has accused these organisations of going beyond their mandate and being engaged in anti-state activities.
“If the INGOs are non-government, why former US president [Barrack] Obama, former UK premier [David] Cameron and other leaders have been taking interest in their affairs! Why this intervention at the level of the head of state.
It should be checked how much money came through these INGOs,” Nisar said on Wednesday.
He was speaking on the floor of the National Assembly during a discussion initiated by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Shireen Mazari, who strongly criticised the government for allowing INGOs to continue their activities until their cases are finalised as well as new visa-on-arrival policy for 24 countries.
Mazari said every country issued visa on reciprocal basis, questioning why Pakistan should grant that favour to some countries, including the US, which had even issued travel advisory about Pakistan for its citizens.
“Visa on arrival was stopped in the past because wrong visas were issued, especially to the US operatives. The whole world knows INGOs are exploited by spy agencies,” she said.
Responding to her, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said for the security of Pakistan, “the government is as watchful as other countries and there is no change in its policy”.
He added, “It is not that every Tom, Dick and Harry can come to the country. Entry to Pakistan can only be made through registered tour operators.
There was just an anomaly that has been removed from the policy about INGOs and there is nothing new.”
He said the visa policy was only to support tourists, adding that Pakistan could not shut its doors to everyone due to security concerns. “We have to bring tourists. But I dismiss fears [that because of our policy] Blackwater or any other security contractor will enter Pakistan,” he said.
Iqbal said he was surprised to know that that the PTI considered INGOs anti-Pakistan, adding that these organisations were playing their role in different countries.
“However, in the garb of such work no element will be allowed to work against the national interest. We welcome those which are working in development sector but those who will work against the interest of Pakistan would not be given permission,” he said.
However, Nisar, who had been at the helm of interior ministry for four years, apparently supported the concerns showed by PTI’s Mazari.
He said he knew that INGOs were doing admirable work in the country but there were some who were doing what was not their mandate and that was why a new policy had to be devised.
“I can say hundreds of spies entered this country especially in [General] Musharraf’s era, who were deadly for this country, and we should not compromise on our security,” he said.
Nisar said he could share several examples where some INGOs had permission for operations in Islamabad but they were working in Balochistan. Some were allowed to perform development functions in Gilgit-Baltistan but were seen working in Khushab, he added.
“They have been found working where we have our sensitive installations and other such areas. You can’t imagine what kind of people came to this country taking advantage of the visa-on-arrival facility… that is why we banned it,” he said.
“We decided we would give visa on arrival to any country which gives the same facility to us,” he said, adding, “If our ministers and parliamentarians are not given visa and if our ministers and top officials have to go to embassy, their officials should also have to go through a similar process.”
Shah lambasts CM Shehbaz
Earlier, Leader of Opposition Khursheed Shah expressed rage over Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif for his seeking applause on finding the murderer of seven-year-old Kusur girl, Zainab.
“Shehbaz is not a politician but a showoff. He sought applause after the culprit was caught. This must have hurt the parents of the deceased. He should be ashamed of himself for such a behaviour,” he added.