PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Tuesday asked the provincial social welfare department to respond within a week to a petition of a women’s rights organisation against the suspension of its registration by the department.

Justice Roohul Amin Khan Chamkani and Justice Qalandar Ali Khan put on notice the social welfare department’s director, who is also the registration authority for NGOs, directing him to put forward his viewpoint on the next hearing into the petition filed by NGO Aware Girls through its chairperson, Gulalai Ismail.

The petitioner claimed that her organisation was very active and renowned and had received several international awards in the last several years.

She challenged two orders issued by the director (social welfare) to declare the organisation dormant, suspend its registration and appoint district social welfare officer Younas Afridi as its administrator, and direct her to hand over the complete records and assets of the organisation to him forthwith.

The respondents in the petition are secretary of the social welfare department, district social welfare officer of Peshawar and the director of the social welfare department.

Ijaz Sabi, lawyer for the petitioner, said the two orders had made the donor agencies stop funding the organisation.

He said the rights organisation had been very active for achieving its objectives on national and international level and therefore, by no stretch of imagination, it could be declared dormant or inoperative. The lawyer said the impugned orders were illegal as the petitioner’s had not been provided any opportunity of hearing and was condemned unheard.

He added that the orders violated the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance, 1961, and Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies Rules, 1962.

The lawyer said the organisation was registered on Sept 2, 2009, and it was meant to promote equity, justice, equality, non-violence in the society, advocate equal opportunities for women in employment and governance, and organise and strengthen the capacity of young women groups enabling them to actively contribute towards sustainable development, social change, women empowerment and peace. He added that the organisation was also projecting young women’s rights and responsibilities to enable them to have equal access to decision making, education, health, financial resources and other social services.

Mr Ijaz highlighted several international awards given to the organisation and Gulalai Ismail and said the performance of the organisation was acknowledged and appreciated on international level.

He said the petitioner had also participated in different national and international conferences including the UN General Assembly.

Petitioner Guilali Ismail was also named in an FIR registered in Swabi against several leaders and members of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement for addressing a public meeting on Aug 12.

In that meeting, she had expressed her views on the women’s rights. Her name was later placed on the Exit Control List.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018