Role of INGOs in Pakistan

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Sultan M Hali

PRIMA facie, an international non-governmental organization (INGO) has the same mission, vision and goals as a non-governmental organization (NGO), but it is international in scope and has a global outreach. However, INGOs may have specific agendas while some NGOs may have aims, which may not be in consonance with national policies. NGOs as well as INGOs are different from intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), which represent formal groups like the United Nations (UN) or its various organs like International Labour Organization (ILO), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP) among others.
An INGO may be founded by private philanthropy, such as the Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates, Zator and Ford Foundations, or as an adjunct to existing international organizations, such as the Catholic or Lutheran churches. A surge in the founding of development INGOs occurred during World War II, when there was a need for establishing organizations for relief and rehabilitation following the devastations of the major war. A number of these organizations later became the large development INGOs like SOS Children’s Villages, Oxfam, Catholic Relief Services, CARE International, and Lutheran World Relief. International Non-governmental Organizations can further be defined by their primary purpose. Some INGOs are operational, meaning that their primary purpose is to foster the community-based organizations within each country via different projects and operations. Yet other INGOs are advocacy-based, i.e. their primary purpose is to influence the policy-making of different countries’ governments regarding certain issues or promote awareness of a certain matters like good governance, health, education, awareness of women issues, child labour etc. Many of the large INGOs have components of both operational projects and advocacy initiatives working together within individual countries. Growing consciousness in the Islamic Ummah, led to organizations like Muslim Aid, Islamic Relief and others to come into existence, especially bringing relief in the aftermath of natural catastrophes as well as wars and internal strife ravaging the Muslim world.
Sometimes the INGOs have hidden agendas and may be used by certain organizations to promote nefarious aims. In Pakistan, in the absence of a clear policy prior to 2015, some of the INGOs were successful in penetrating various sectors of society and accomplished agenda of their donors. These INGOs were observed endeavoring to influence Pakistan’s security, religious matters besides breaching social norms and customs. After formulation of policy frame work it was decided to bring all INGOs under scrutiny resulting in the formulation of INGOs Policy – 2015. Reportedly, so far 145 INGOs have applied for registration with the Ministry of Interior under new INGOs Policy. During scrutiny it was revealed by security establishments that 63 INGOs are working against Pakistan’s security and solidarity.
After constant follow up and push by relevant ministries along with sensitive institutions, Ministry of lnterior served notices to 49 INGOs (in November 2017 and August 2018) for closing their operation in the country; out of these, 18 INGOs filed representation against the Interior Ministry’s decision and they were given ample opportunity to clear their position. Their appeals 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 close their operations in the country within 60 days. However, the said INGOs have been given the opportunity of reapplying for registration after 6 months for a revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
Unfortunately, it has been highlighted that 40 INGOs displayed a high handed approach and did not even bother to get themselves registered and have been operating in the country without any registration. This is contrary to the rules and norms and a slap on the sovereignty of Pakistan. Interior Ministry is seriously considering taking legal action against such INGOs. The Government of Pakistan accords importance to the role and contribution of INGOs in support of its socio economic policies and programmes. The Ministry of Interior website indicates that 66 INGOs comprise the list of Approved INGOs (two from Australia, one Austria, one Belgium, two Canada, four France, five Germany, two Holland, one Italy, one Ireland, four Japan, one Kuwait, one Qatar, one Saudi Arabia, one Switzerland, one Turkey, 13 UK and 18 USA among others). Seventy Two INGOs are in the list whose registration is under process, while Sixty Three have signed MoUs with the Ministry of Interior. One Hundred and Forty One applications have been received by the Ministry of Interior for on line registration.
Every country has the right to examine the operations of INGOs and appreciate those contributing to development projects. The regretful episode of Osama bin Laden (OBL) on 2 May 2011, highlighted that a fake vaccination programme run by a foreign-funded aid organization played a key role in collecting information about the whereabouts of the Al-Qaeda Chief and confirming his presence through the phony immunization campaign. The episode raised alarm bells, firstly that INGOs are being used for espionage, collecting data on sensitive installations of Pakistan and even influencing the electoral process. Immunization is a sore issue in the underdeveloped areas of Pakistan and the OBL saga further shook the confidence of the rural as well as religious opinion builders in the vaccination campaign. This could well effect future generations. Pakistan is well within its right to ensure that only genuine INGOs are allowed to operate within its boundaries.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.

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