Foreign funding: SC censures centre, provinces for not regulating NGOs

Top court rejects reports submitted by governments as ‘grossly unsatisfactory’

Hasnaat Malik July 02, 2015
Top court rejects reports submitted by governments as ‘grossly unsatisfactory’. PHOTO: INP


The Supreme Court has come down hard on the federal and provincial governments for failing to take adequate steps to regulate the activities of foreign funded nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in Pakistan some six months after the National Action Plan against terrorism was announced.

“We find it quite amazing that although the registration, funding, etc of NGOs is supposedly covered/regulated by four basic statutes – the Societies Registration Act, 1860; the Trust Act, 1832; the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration & Control) Rules, 1962 and the Companies Ordinance, 1984 – the five governments appear not to have relevant figures and statistics in respect of the NGOs, their sources of funding, their principals and office-bearers, and other relevant information,” reads the order passed by a three-judge bench on Wednesday.

“It is recognised by the governments that there is a potential for misuse of funding received by NGOs… [But] there is no apparent effort on their part to even gather basic statistics which would be necessary for preventing such potential misuse,” it adds.

Read: Regulating NGO funding

Rejecting the reports on NGOs submitted by the centre and the provinces, the bench summoned the attorney general in the court today (Thursday) to apprise it of the actions taken by the federal government to regulate NGOs and their activities in the country.

During the proceedings, the bench, headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, expressed its displeasure over the handling of such a serious matter by the federal and provincial governments ‘in a most non-serious and casual manner’. “This is evident from the submissions made in the court today (Wednesday) and also from the reports filed in this case by the five governments,” it observed in its order.

Terming the reports submitted by the federal and provincial governments ‘grossly unsatisfactory and inadequate’, the bench said: “Very serious efforts are required for the purpose of monitoring NGOs and regulating them in accordance with the statutes applicable to them.”

“The learned attorney general may appear tomorrow (Thursday) to inform us of the actions taken since December 24, 2014 to date,” the order read.

Read: Declining green cover: NGO goes to court against govt’s decision to allot forest land

Talking to The Express Tribune, a senior law officer admitted that currently there was no mechanism in the country to monitor how NGOs obtained and utilised their funds. He added that NGOs were being registered in the country under several different legislations rather than a centralised mechanism.

Details on NGOs submitted to the court

In its report on NGOs submitted to the top court, the federal government included a list of 60 NGOs which were receiving foreign funds. Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti also informed the bench that some 643 NGOs working in the country were registered under the Companies Ordinance while another 494 were registered under the labour law.

Punjab Additional Advocate General Raza A Mirza, meanwhile, submitted that 30,000 NGOs working in the province were registered under two different laws.

Submitting a report on behalf of a Balochistan, a law officer from the province told the bench that 1,540 local NGOs were working in the province. He said the social welfare department of Balochistan had issued a warning to these NGOs to share their audit reports, but received no details from them.

Balochistan’s report further stated that the deputy commissioners were ordered to monitor the working of these NGOs but they had not responded up till now.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2015. 

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