ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has rejected applications from several international aid groups, including Save the Children, for continuing work in the country under a new policy revised two years ago.
Nine international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), mostly from the US and UK, have been refused registration under the guidelines announced in November 2013.
International trusts had been working in the country after signing “open-ended agreements” but in November 2013 the government introduced a new policy to streamline the functioning of INGOs in the country. Around 150 NGOs, a majority of them international, had submitted relevant registration documents with the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) by early 2014.
According to documents submitted to the Senate this week, the names of the trusts whose registration requests have been declined are: the US-based Catholic Relief Services, World Vision International and iMMAP; UK-based International Alert and Save the Children; Norwegian Refugee Council, Danish Refugees Council, ZOA International of the Netherlands and Bangladesh-based Dhaka Ahsania.
The summary prepared by the interior ministry available with The Express Tribune states that 67 out of 122 INGOs working in the country have yet to register with the EAD. Only 19 INGOs have re-registered under the post-November 2013 announcement.
The ministry, in its response to a question put up by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Senator Javed Abbasi, said that 27 INGOs have interim permission to continue operations in the country.
On October 1, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had announced another revised policy requiring all INGOs to re-apply to the government to operate and raise funds in the country. All groups were told to re-register within 60 days.
Five weeks after the government announced the new strategy, only three INGOs have applied for NoCs, a senior interior officer told The Express Tribune. Operations of these aid groups have been stalled for months. November 30 is the deadline for all non-profit groups to get registered.
Under the Policy for the Regulation of INGOs in Pakistan, unregistered groups will not be allowed to operate inside the country. The policy is meant for greater accountability for INGOs, Nisar claimed, after several international organisations were found to be involved in “anti-state activities”.
In his written reply in the Senate, the interior minister said the ministry had introduced a new policy for regulating the INGOs and the draft bill (Foreign Contribution Act 2014) was under consideration of the law and justice ministry.
Previously the INGOs were being regulated by the EAD under the policy for “Regulation of Organisations Receiving Foreign Funds” dually approved by the Economic Coordination Cabinet Committee.
Interior ministry officials say the new rules are a “bit tough” but the INGOs are deliberately avoiding registration. One official said the aid groups were worried about the new policy and wanted some flexibility.
Around 33 international and 420 domestic non-profit groups had applied for registration under the new policy, he said. These groups are also registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2015.