Questioning the activities of certain non-governmental organisations, the Abbottabad Commission has recommended that laws relating to foreign non-governmental organisations must be reviewed by the law ministry in order to meet present-day needs.
Headed by Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, the commission made the recommendations as the Societies Registration Act 1860 was mum about many important aspects of the work of NGOs and INGOs.
As a result, it said that in a number of cases, the lack of oversight had created opportunities which were taken advantage of by hostile foreign intelligence agencies to infiltrate NGOs to illegally gather intelligence, including preparations for assaults on the sovereignty and independence of the country, as happened on May 2, 2011 when US Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.
Most NGOs have no internal mechanisms to keep a watch on such elements that have infiltrated them for purposes unrelated to their projects in Pakistan, as almost certainly happened in the case of children’s NGO Save the Children (which denied any involvement in the Bin Laden hunt), the commission said.
Further, the commission report said Washington’s decision to allow the CIA to use United States Agency for International Development which in turn led it to use Save the Children in planning the May 2 raid had done incalculable harm to an environment in which perfectly respectable and renowned NGOs seek to assist the government of Pakistan in discharging its development and humanitarian obligations to Pakistanis.
The commission stated that keeping in view the influx of foreigners, especially from the US, coming to Pakistan under questionable guises, the visa policy of 2010 must be followed in true letter and spirit.
It said the interior ministry must be vigilant while issuing visas and all visas for US nationals must be cleared by relevant intelligence agencies. No relaxation or exception should be given to any ambassador that allows the official visa policy to be circumvented, the report stated. The commission also suggested vigilant approach against foreign spy networks and hiring process of the security companies.
There is currently no role of ministry of interior, foreign affairs or the home departments of the provinces for extradition of an individual declared ‘persona non-grata’. Ministry of interior must be referred to for initiation and extradition purposes, the commission recommended.
The commission noted that most NGOs and INGOs are doing very valuable work and have assisted Pakistanis in a number of fields of emergency assistance, capacity building, provision of basic services, etc.
This is an issue that needs to be taken by the government on a priority basis to ensure that the continued working of foreign NGOs remain constant with the security parameters of the country, the commission suggested.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.
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