ISLAMABAD: Two international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) were formally allowed to operate in Pakistan under the new procedure after the process to accord approval under the first-ever policy governing registration and operation of INGOs commenced on Monday.

The decision was taken at a meeting held with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the chair. The first batch of INGOs to get permission to operate in the country included Qatar Charity and Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), Belgium.

The meeting was informed that as many as 127 INGOs had so far submitted applications for registration under the new policy framework. It was decided that rest of the applications would also be decided at a faster pace. The minister directed the committee formed for the purpose to speed up the process and decide the pending applications as soon as possible.

Chaudhry Nisar also directed that the INGOs getting approval under the new procedure be extended government support across the country. He said the new policy was aimed at strengthening partnership between the government and the INGOs. It will facilitate INGOs playing role in socio-economic development of the country.

An official of the Interior Ministry told Dawn that the scrutiny committee headed by Secretary Interior Shahid Khan would hold frequent meetings to decide the fate of pending applications. The policy will regulate the registration, working, funding, monitoring and other aspects pertaining to all types of INGOs. The approved INGOs will be registered for specific fields of work and areas of operation, after consultation with federal and provincial authorities and in line with their needs and the country’s priorities.

He said subject to approval, INGOs would sign a MoU with the government for a period of up to three years. He pointed out that the policy warned INGOs against any engagement in money laundering, terrorism financing, weapons’ smuggling, anti-state activities or maintenance of links with proscribed organisations, which would entail cancellation of their registration.

A breach of security or involvement in any activity inconsistent with national interests or contrary to government’s policy will lead to cancellation of registration. INGOs have been barred from taking part in any kind of political activity or conducting any research or surveys irrelevant to their terms of reference.

Right of appeal will be applicable only in cases of cancellation of registration. In the case of any grievance, INGO may file a representation before a special ministerial committee, to be constituted and notified by the government. The cancellation of registration would not be open for challenge in any court of law.

INGOs will also be obliged to provide any information that the government may require from time to time and those not fulfilling disclosure requirements will be proceeded against.

In addition, INGOs will be required to have their financial audit conducted by auditors approved by the INGO committee. INGOs will also be required to declare all foreign funds, along with the terms and conditions of those funds, as well as details of all their bank accounts.

Foreign employees of INGOs will have to seek prior permission from the Ministry of Interior for visiting areas outside their designated area of activities, and violations may lead to the cancellation of their visa.

The meeting held on Monday also discussed progress on the implementation of National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism.

Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2015