ISLAMABAD: Moving to put a stricter regime in place for the monitoring and scrutiny of international non-government organisations (INGOs) currently operating in the country, the government is currently in the process of deciding which organisations will be allowed to stay on and which will be asked to leave.
A senior official from the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) confirmed to Dawn that in an initial review, a committee consisting of representatives from the ministries of interior, foreign affairs and the EAD had rejected some INGOs’ applications to continue operations in Pakistan.
However, the official said, a second review was underway and would be completed over the next few days, after which the EAD would formally convey its decision to the organisations under scrutiny.
As a result, a number of INGOs that had applied for renewal of their No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) are working in a state of uncertainty, unsure whether the government will smile upon them or ask them to wind up their projects.
Review to weed out suspicious organisations underway; many still waiting for extension of NOCs, MOUs
Save the Children is one such organisation. Director Advocacy and Communications Arshad Mehmood told Dawn the organisation was waiting for the renewal of its memorandum of understanding (MoU), under which it operated in Pakistan.
“Save the Children applied for an extension in May this year and we’ve been waiting for a response. It feels like we’re in limbo, but we’re carrying on with our projects until further notice,” he said.
An interior ministry official told Dawn that intelligence agencies had repeatedly flagged a number of INGOs whose staffers ventured into sensitive areas and undertook projects other than those they were mandated to carry out under the MoUs they had signed with the government.
For example, the official said, some INGOs went to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) without seeking prior permission, which ticked off the military authorities.
“The confusing part of their operations is that they have hired contractors, who make the agencies’ job of monitoring them more challenging, and at times, impossible. Therefore, under the new mechanism, the government is trying to keep tabs on them.”
Other concerns, according to a Foreign Office (FO) official, included bringing disrepute to Pakistan. The official said that several organisations carried out quite superficial studies or surveys and then placed the country on the lowest rankings, bringing a bad name to the country internationally.
Without going into detail, he also pointed out that certain INGOs’ sources of income were quite murky and the government had no clue where their money came from. Such entities, the government had decided, needed to be kept under observation.
The official said INGOs thrived under the PPP government. One of the accusations against former Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, was his awarding of visas to an unspecified number of Americans.
While the government is raising its guard against certain suspicious INGOs, there are a few which despite having a clean slate, may have to suffer newly-introduced procedural delays.
“A European INGO hired me for a youth-specific programme, but its implementation is being delayed because the EAD is not clearing the funding,” a local consultant told Dawn on condition of anonymity.
Another adviser who works with a couple of INGOs that are under scrutiny argued that the patchwork the government has embarked upon would only dissuade genuine organisations that had no hidden agenda.
“One cannot paint everyone with the same brush,” he added.
“The only way forward for the government is to enact the legislation it has been talking about to streamline INGOs’ working, which successive governments have conveniently ignored,” the consultant said.
Since May of 2014, the EAD has decreed that an application addressed to the EAD secretary is a must for signing an agreement with the government of Pakistan. The application must include the introduction of the organisation and outline their experience in the relevant field, the reasons and justification for working in Pakistan, their specific fields of intervention and geographical focus in the country.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2015