ISLAMABAD: Pakistan approved fresh applications of 74 International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) out of total 141 outfits who submitted applications for fresh registration, showing a 50 per cent approval rate, the Foreign Office (FO) said on Thursday.
According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a total of 141 INGOs had applied for the fresh registration with the Ministry of Interior out of which 74 applications have been approved after thorough process. The applications of 18 INGOs have been rejected while the rest of around 49 applications are being processed.
“As for shrinking of space, the evidence is contrary to assertions being made. Out of 141 that applied for registration since October 2015, applications of 74 INGOs have been approved. This figure shows over 50 % approval rate. These numbers do not count the applications of other INGOs which are being processed,” the MoFA statement said.
The MoFA made the digits public in wake of diplomatic pressure being exerted by the western countries over the federal government, according to well-placed sources, as strings are being attached to Pakistan’s plea for a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The statement referred to notifications issued to 18 INGOs on October 2, 2018, about rejection of their registration applications and closure of operations, stating that a number of queries have been raised.
“Broadly, three concerns have been highlighted. One, there is lack of clarity or insufficient information on grounds for rejection. Second, INGO registration process is non-transparent. Third, the decision on closure of operations would somehow constrain the space for INGOs and civil society in Pakistan,” the statement noted.
The MoFA statement said that Pakistan has carefully reviewed these concerns. Based on a detailed review, it is clarified that Pakistan remains committed to pursuing an open and transparent INGO policy, which is underpinned by national laws, rules and regulations, it added.
“There is an inter-agency mechanism that is mandated inter alia to examine applications for registration, review necessary documentation, undertake monitoring and evaluation and attend to appeals. Pakistan’s INGO policy framework is fully aligned with nationally determined development priorities and needs. We recognise and appreciate the assistance from the donor community and INGOs”.
Secondly, the statement said, in accordance with universally recognised principles and practice, every state has the right to define laws, policies and regulatory frameworks, keeping in view national context, circumstances and needs.
“In terms of concerns regarding lack of clarity or insufficient information on grounds for rejection, we believe that such concerns primarily have arisen from misunderstanding. In our view, the grounds for rejection are clearly laid out in the policy document provisions,” the statement noted.
With regard to transparency, Pakistan’s policy framework is very transparent and all information on registration requirements, required documentation, INGO policy document, MoU and details about funding, monitoring, disclosure, review and appeals mechanism are available on Ministry of Interior’s online portal. Moreover, all requirements of due process were met. Representatives of all 18 INGOs were given the right to appeal and the opportunity to provide additional details and discuss mutual concerns, the statement added.
“The approved INGOs are from all regions of the world. They are operating freely in Pakistan and contributing to realisation of national development priorities,” the statement concluded.
It merits mention that Interior Minister Shehryar Afridi had told a European Union delegation on October 9 that 18 INGOs had been asked to shut down operations in Pakistan after “due process” as no compromise could be made on the country’s security and sovereignty and no one could be allowed to create instability in the country in cover of international or local aid workers.
The EU delegation was led by Ambassador Jean-François Cautain. According to the official statement issued following the meeting, the minister had said that no one could be allowed to get involved with actions against the state. The minister said that the government would ensure security of the lives and assets of Pakistani citizens.
According to sources, the EU delegation had raised its concerns over banning of 18 INGOs and had requested the minister to review the decision.
However, the interior minister had told the delegation that Pakistan had taken the decision after thorough investigation which found that certain elements were using these INGOs as cover and were actively involved in acts of provocation for anti-state activities in Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, Balochistan and parts of Sindh.
“The minister told the EU delegation that the government was taking measures to safeguard the country from internal and external threats and no compromise would be made in this regard,” the source said.
WHY PAKISTAN ASKED 18 INGOS TO SHUT DOWN OPERATIONS?
Asked to elaborate further, an official in the Ministry of Interior said that in the absence of a clear policy prior till year 2015, some of the INGOs were successful in penetrating various sectors of society and accomplished agenda of their donors.
The source said that these INGOs were observed endeavoring to influence Pakistani security, religious matters besides breaching social norms and customs.
“After formulation of policy framework it was decided to bring all INGOs under scrutiny resulting in formulation of INGOs Policy – 2015. Reportedly, so far 141 INGOs have applied for registration with Ministry of Interior under new INGOs Policy,” the official said.
The official added that during scrutiny of these INGOs, it was revealed by sensitive institutions that 63 INGOs were working against Pakistan’s security and solidarity.
“After constant follow up and push by relevant ministries along with sensitive institutions, the Mol served notices to 49 INGOs (in November 2017 and August 2018) for closing down their operation in the country. Out of these, 18 INGOs filed representation against Interior Ministry decision and they were given ample opportunity to clear their position,” the official added.
The official said the appeals of these 18 INGOs were unanimously regretted by a special committee constituted for the said purpose.
“On 2nd October 2018, Interior Ministry issued final winding up notices to 18 INGOs to wind up their operations in the country within 60 days. However, the said INGOs have been asked to apply after six months on revised MoU for their registration,” the official added.
The official said that 40 INGOs did not even bother to get themselves registered and are working in Pakistan without registration.
“Interior ministry is also considering to take legal action against said INGOs very soon,” the official added.