Tightening the screw: Govt to draft new laws for NGOs

Interior minister says all NGOs working against country’s national interest will be closed

Zahid Gishkori June 13, 2015


Pakistan’s security czar has said the government is working on streamlining the operations of all non-profit organisations working in the country to regulate their activities.

Speaking to reporters outside the National Assembly in Islamabad on Friday, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said a committee constituted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was working on drafting new laws to set a mechanism for operations of all such organisations. PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi heads the committee.

He added that no non-governmental organisation (NGO) working against the country’s national interest would be allowed to continue working in Pakistan. “We just want to regulate the system. We do not want to shut down NGOs, which follow our laws.”

The minister’s comments come a day after authorities sealed the offices of international aid group Save the Children and ordered its expatriate staff to leave the country, accusing the organisation of “working against the country”.

Chaudhry Nisar said the government had started a crackdown against those NGOs, both national and international, which were involved in “anti-state activities” on foreign agenda.

He said a large number of local and international not-for-profit groups were being monitored for a long time. “We cannot allow them to continue their operations as they were doing something which was against Pakistan’s interest.”

The interior minister alleged that most of them were taking part in “anti-Pakistan” activities. “We welcome NGOs in Pakistan, but they need to understand our laws and constitution,” he said, adding the government would not let any such group work ‘under the table’.

He added that when the matter of a foreign aid group working against Pakistan was taken up in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, 12 of the 15 member countries supported Pakistan’s stance, but the US, Israel and India supported the NGOs.

Meanwhile in a statement issued by Save the Children, its spokesperson said the group was willing to comply with all rules and regulations of Pakistan, but at least the organisation should be informed about the reasons behind the forced closure of its offices.

“We have been working in Pakistan since 1979 in collaboration with provincial and federal governments reaching out to over four million children directly by providing them health, nutrition and education. We have over 1,200 employees across Pakistan,” he said.

The statement added that the aid group had no expatriate staff working in Pakistan and all workers had been serving communities and children with complete honesty, dedication and transparency.

The US State Department, in a statement, also expressed concern over Paksitan’s crackdown on international charitable organisations and other NGOs.

“We urge the Pakistan to standardise and streamline a transparent process that will allow INGOs, including Save the Children, to work legally in Pakistan,” Department Spokesperson John Kirby said.

Death penalty

Turning towards the European Union’s appeal to reinstate the moratorium on death penalty, the interior minister said Pakistan would continue hanging the condemned prisoners, who had used all their legal options.

“We are up to our necks in the war against terrorists,” he said. “We are in a state of war. Executions are a key part of our National Action Plan,”

With 152 executions, Pakistan has become one of the world’s most prolific executioners, surpassing countries like Saudi Arabia, which has so far executed 90 prisoners, and the US, which has executed 14 people, in the past six months.

“Those pleading the case of Shafqat Hussain are maligning the country’s judicial system, just for their vested interests,” he claimed. He added that more than 10,000 prisoners had been declared juveniles by Pakistani courts in recent years.

The government lifted its self-imposed ban on moratorium on death penalty after the Peshawar school massacre in December last year. More than 8,000 prisoners are on death row in around 70 jails of the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2015.


Zafar | 7 years ago | Reply I have a personal experience of facade some INGO put on their work in Pakistan. I personally met a person abroad, who was working in a reputable INGO in 2010 floods in Southern Punjab. While the INGO was overtly working on disaster relief and the sponsor country was boasting about the aid that country was giving to Pakistan for flood relief. He unintentionally revealed that he had a team of around 20 persons in a city in Southern Punjab, which was responsible to monitor trends of religious extremism and monitor activities of madrassahs and some specific religious leaders. I was really shocked to hear this; what his work had to do with disaster relief ? I don't doubt the government when it says that some INGO/NGO are involved in the activities other than those stated in their public statements. Not all INGO may be involved in 'anti-state' activities, but the laws should not provide any loopholes to such kind of INGO s, and they must be taken to task.
curious2 | 7 years ago | Reply You apparently can close down an NGO on a whim - no proof - no court proceedings? So why do you need new laws?
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