ISLAMABAD - The foreign funding of local NGOs (non-government organizations) working in Pakistan would soon be under proper scrutiny as the government has decided to register all these afresh.

According to an inter-ministerial communication seen by The Nation, the government has decided in principle to register all local NGOs afresh that are getting foreign funding in a bid to regulate their sources of money.

The decision of the government is following its first ever policy on the regulation of international NGOs, operating in Pakistan, announced in September 2015. All the INGOs were asked to get themselves registered afresh with the Ministry of Interior for continuation of their operations in Pakistan.

It has been decided that Economic Affairs Division (EAD) would register all such NGOs getting foreign donations or funding and a comprehensive policy is being devised in this regard for final approval of the higher authorities, a senior government officer said yesterday.

“The input of Ministry of Interior, EAD, other relevant ministers as well as security agencies has been taken on the issue.” The government wants complete oversight over the sources of foreign funding of all local NGOs so that this funding could not be used in some activities other than development sector of the country, the officer said.

“We believe that the foreign funding of local NGOS was also a grey area that needs to be addressed,” another officer of the Ministry of Interior commented. He said that the government at least should have the knowledge that from where the local NGOs were getting foreign funding. But it should be clear that we don’t want to create hurdles in the smooth working of NGOs that are contributing to the development sector of the country, he said.

Earlier, the government while announcing its first ever policy of INGOs’ regulation had said that no INGO would be allowed to operate in the country without fresh registration and approval of the interior ministry. The government had taken the decision after the reservations of security and intelligence agencies that some INGOs had been found working in sensitive security areas out of their jurisdiction.

The interior ministry has so far approved registration of 46 INGOs under the new regulatory policy while total 132 organisations have applied afresh for registration.

“Out of (these) 46 INGOs, we have signed MOUs with 37 to work in Pakistan for a period of three years,” the deputy secretary (INGOs) interior ministry had told a meeting last month. She also said that some applicants had been excluded from the category of INGOs.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had approved the transfer of registration and regulation work of INGOs from the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) to the interior ministry last year.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has recently remarked that EAD had only registered 19 INGOs with it in the 69-year history of the country while his ministry has succeeded to register 46 INGOs so far.

“INGOs’ registration work would be completed within next six months and after that, their monitoring system would start working under the new guidelines,” the minister had said and had also warned the intelligence agencies for taking action against any INGO at its own until the final decision of the ministry.

On Friday last, Nisar said all the international Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) working in Pakistan will be brought into legal loop within next six months.

He said this after consultations in high-level meeting on suggestions to bring INGOs into legal loop in the country. Federal ministers, high officials of National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other organisations were also attended the high-level meeting.

The interior minister while praising its own ministry said tremendous change had taken place because of the interior ministry. He said FIA had recovered over Rs16 billion.

This should be noted that the government had earlier in October last year announced that all international NGOs working in the country will have to apply for registration in 60 days and the ministry would also take a decision within the same period regarding approval or otherwise.

Nisar also announced to establish one passport office for each district. “I want to launch e-passport project within next three months as well,” he said.