ISLAMABAD - After the prime minister’s decision to transfer the registration task of international non-government organisations (INGOs) from the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) to the Ministry of Interior (MoI), there exists complete confusion over this transition as the whole process of regulations of INGOs has been stalled.

Some quarters are showing their concerns about the potential negative impact as a result of this transition while some government circles are raising questions whether the Ministry of Interior will be able to implement the task that has more relations to the economy than security. They are questioning whether the Ministry of Interior would be able to handle the job of registration and other related issues of INGOs in the light of the fact that the Interior Division is doing purely security-related work.

The official sources say though Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan more than once has said that his ministry will finalise the cohesive mechanism for the registration of INGOs within three months, the whole process of regulations of INGOs in the country had been stalled. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has recently said that National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has been asked to devise an online form for the registration of INGOs and the ministry will complete the task within three months instead of the six-month deadline given by the government.

With this confusion, there are apprehensions that social development sector of the country will be badly damaged as international INGos are running projects of education and health worth billions of rupees in Pakistan. Usman Kakar, a Balochistan based senator, has shown his serious concerns in the Senate over the decision of the country to allow operations of ‘Save the Children’, an international aid group, in selected parts of Pakistan, excluding Balochistan and KP. He termed this decision a grave discrimination against the smaller provinces.

An official of the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) said that after the prime minister’s decision to transfer the INGOs’ registration work to the interior minister, the EAD had stalled visa processing of INGOs’ staff and the process of tax exemptions to INGOs as well as previous registration process has also been stopped. There exists a complete confusion and both the government departments, including the Economic Affairs Division and the Ministry of Interior are looking towards each other how to implement the new decision, he said.

Background interviews with some officials of the Ministry of Interior, however, indicate that the ministry is confident that it will complete the task of registration of INGOs in a better way.

The official sources said international community was showing its concerns over this transition and questioning when the new process of registration would restart. The sources said that representatives of a number of INGOs are contacting the Economic Affairs Division to start fresh projects for the social development of the country, but they are being asked to wait for some time till the Ministry of Interior restarts the whole process. A number of INGOs have already applied afresh for registration as the Economic Affairs Division had asked these to get themselves registered afresh under the 2013 Policy of INGOs.

The issue of INGOs made headlines when the government last month banned operations of ‘Save the Children’ in Pakistan, but later the decision was reversed. The government is of the view that some INGOs are involved in anti-state activities, so it wants to impose strict regulations on these.

A key government officer, wishing not to be named, said the major task of overseeing the working and registration of INGOs would remain with the INGOs Committee that already exists and also includes representatives of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Foreign Office, Ministry of Interior and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). “It does not matter whether the Interior Division would deal with the registration of INGos or EAD as INGO Committee has a special role in this process and this role would remain intact,” he said, adding the committee would receive applications of INGOs and allow or disallow their registration.

EAD Secretary Saleem Sethi, while talking to this correspondent some days back, said the Ministry of Interior would only deal with the registration of INGOs, their security clearance and visa issuance of their staff. “The matters of their budget as well as projects will remain with the EAD, so we have no issue over this transition,” he said.

Nargis Khan, Policy and Communications Adviser at Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), a representative body of INGOs in Pakistan, in her response to a questioner two weeks back, said, “The Ministry of Interior has not issued any directive with regard to its new responsibilities. PHF would welcome consultation with the government on the new registration process.” Responding to a question whether PHF has any concerns over this decision of the government, she said, “PHF is concerned with the potential negative impact this transition could have on the 19 million people who currently receive assistance.” To a question about the ability of the Ministry of Interior to deal with this job, she said PHF would welcome consultation with the government on the new registration process.