PESHAWAR: Thousands of small and medium level non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have suffered during the government’s campaign to regularise their affairs in a bid to fulfil the requirements of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global watchdog for illicit financing.
The mapping of NGOs was stared in May 2019 to fulfill the FATF requirements.
The provincial government deregistered earlier this year around 3,851 NGOs of the total 4,935, working in different sectors in the province.
Prior to launching the exercise, sources said that 3, 838 NGOs were registered with the provincial social welfare department and 1,097 were registered with the provincial industries department.
They said that social welfare department deregistered 3,030 NGOs while industries department deregistered 821for not fulfilling the criteria required for their mapping.
Over 3,500 non-governmental organisations deregistered since May 2019
However, later on the social welfare department re-registered 12 NOGs out of 3,030 while industries department re-registered 20 NGOs after they provided the required documents, sources in both departments told Dawn.
The government has also frozen the bank accounts of all the deregistered NGOs. The major information sought by the government from NGOs included registration certificates; constitution, rules and regulations; annual action plan and five years strategic plan; detailed annual budget; tax registration certificates; tax exemption certificates; tax
returns of the last three years; evidence of withholding taxes; and annual performance reports for three years.
It also included details of the three years account audit; the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan membership certificate of the auditor; funding guarantee letter containing donor commitment; proof of local residence; copies of publications and magazines and newsletters; passport and visas in case of foreigners; project reports; and minutes of the board meetings.
An office-bearer of a local NGO in Mardan told Dawn that their organisation was deregistered by the social welfare department without conveying them the message about the required information for mapping NGOs.
“We were unaware about deregistration of our organisation and continued social welfare activities in our village,” he said.
A few days ago, he added, police and officials of social welfare department came and sealed their office for continuing social welfare activities despite deregistration of the organization.
“Later on we came to know that police have also registered an FIR against some of the organisation’s members. It was astonishing for us. How can police and social welfare department register FIR when our village-based welfare organisation doesn’t know about deregistration,” he questioned.
He said that their organisation was working against drug abuse in the village, social evils and festive firing during marriage ceremonies besides repairing electricity transformers and holding medical camps.
He said that neither foreign donors nor government was providing funds to them rather their organisation’s main sources of funds was collecting fines from the villagers for violating certain rules they had framed for maintaining peace in the village.
He said that members of their organisation used to play the role of guards outside government girl schools when militancy was on its peak in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“We are in favour of regulating NGOs but they should not be strangulated in the name of regulation,” a representative of a NGOs network told Dawn, wishing not to be named. First of all, he said, government should educate the NGOs about its requirement and then facilitate them before regulating them.
He said that most of the deregistered NGOs were working at the village and town level, having no foreign funding issue. He said that government should not make such regulations that caused sinking of local NGOs.
He said that international NGOs had online facilities, offices and highly educated staff members and were well-informed about the government’s requirements but local NGOs had no such facilities so they suffered during the mapping initiative.
The local NGOs still used a register for record keeping and using Hujras (guest house) as offices, he added.
The director of social welfare department, HabibAfridi, when contacted, said that those NGOs were deregistered, which were not fulfilling the required criteria. “We have reregistered 12 NGOs, which have properly applied and provided the required documents,” he said.
He claimed that the most of deregistered NGOs had been dormant since long.
When asked as to why social welfare department did not issue letters to such NGOs prior to deregistration, the director said that it was impossible to issue letters to thousands of NGOs on the addresses of their offices which they changed frequently.
However, he said, the department had directed all the NGOs through advertisements in the newspapers to provide the requisite information.
Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2020