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Senate panel demands explanation for ban on INGOs

Updated October 30, 2018

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Senate committee summons interior secretary to explain why the decision to ban the organisations was taken. — Photo/File
Senate committee summons interior secretary to explain why the decision to ban the organisations was taken. — Photo/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights has summoned the interior secretary concerning a recent government decision of barring several international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) from functioning in the country.

Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the committee’s chairman, has directed the interior secretary to appear before the committee on Nov 5, and explain why the decision to ban the organisations was taken. The secretary has also been asked to present a detailed briefing about the process and rules for the registration of INGOs in the first place.

Mr Khokhar said that he is concerned that the ban on the INGOs will prevent development, relief and aid work — directly impacting the poor as a result. Additionally, he remarked, thousands of Pakistanis working in the sector, will lose their employment, creating further problems.

The decision to ban INGOs has not been well received in development and international circles. Representatives and diplomats of several countries have written a joint letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan to review the policy. The prime minister has already asked the interior ministry to consider the matter with some detail, but there has been no progress so far. The letter itself, which is available with Dawn, states that as many as 18 organisations were advised by the government in early October to pack up within the next 60 days. The appeals the INGOs had made, the government said, had been rejected.

Summons interior secretary on Nov 5

“Based on the information provided to us, these organisations have not been provided adequate explanation by the government for their closure. As governments that fund such organisations to implement development programmes on our behalf, we feel that we have also not received proper explanations for the decision,” the letter stated.

There are also concerns about the registration process of the organisations working in the sector. The lack of transparency in the procedure to register and the consequent restriction on civil society to mobilise and contribute to development work risks damaging Pakistan’s international reputation as a serious actor — and stakeholder — in human development and social change. The international community has also expressed concerns over this as well as over the fact that such policies of the government will undermine the confidence of both international donors and the business community, who would otherwise be willing to extend generous funds to programmes.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2018