Jan 032018

Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday expressed concern over the government's move to ban international non-government organisations (INGOs) without the presence of relevant legislation in this regard.

The matter was taken up after the interior ministry presented a report before the committee regarding the recently implemented ban on INGOs.

While briefing the committee, the ministry officials said that the interior ministry had received registration requests from 149 NGOs, out of which 27 registration requests had been rejected and six NGOs did not respond to the questions asked by the ministry.

"Some NGOs had been working in contradiction to their objectives," the officials said, adding that the organisations can file appeals against the rejection with the ministry.

They said the registration of only those NGOs had been suspended that violated the agreement signed by them to work in Pakistan.

Some NGOs had been receiving foreign funding, the ministry officials said.

However, the Senators opposed the decision to bar NGOs from operating in Pakistan without relevant legislation.

"No law has been passed by the parliament to ban NGOs," observed Senator Farhatullah Babar. He said it was not appropriate to ban organisations in the absence of laws in this regard.

He said the conditions imposed on NGOs' operations are "fraud", adding that as per regulations, NGOs cannot do any work other than constructing schools, hospitals and roads.

Babar alleged that the decisions to ban NGOs are being taken by a committee housed in the interior ministry.

"There should be no intervention by agencies in the process of banning NGOs," he maintained.

The Senator said the regulations bar NGOs from working on the issue of missing persons and even women's rights. "Some institutions are not functioning according to the law."

Senator Mohsin Leghari, however, took a different stance and insisted that agencies should play a role in the matter of suspending the registration of NGOs.

"It should be checked as to who is funding the NGOs and for what purpose," he observed.

The government has long treated foreign-aid groups in the country with suspicion, fearing they could mask efforts to spy on the country.

Last month alone, the federal government had ordered 21 foreign-aid groups to wrap up their activities and prepare to leave after they failed to re-register under tough regulations introduced two years ago.

The INGOs were given two months to close their offices and vacate the country.

Islamabad stepped up its monitoring after the CIA used a vaccination campaign as a front to gather information on Osama bin Laden ahead of the United States raid that killed him in 2011.

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