The Sindh government’s decision to cancel the registration of almost 7200 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the province is alarming in the extreme; simply because it comes now, after decades of delay. Many of these organisations were in violation of government law and failed to disclose financial statements for years; why was the provincial government inactive until now?

We can only wonder how this came to pass at all. Were rules relaxed by complicit government officials when these organizations were initially registered, or is this due to a complete failure by the government to do its due diligence? Either way, even though the NGOs deserved to have their registrations cancelled, the move has unnecessarily provided ammunition to our critics.

What is worse is that the previous federal government publicly formulated a new NGO policy and made it obligatory for NGOs to comply with regulations on declaration of funding and filling in key information about the work they carried out and who controlled the organizations. This policy was implemented less than five years ago in 2015, and yet somehow, 7200 NGOs in Sindh managed to avoid the more stringent rules and also got away with it.

Some of the organizations currently under scrutiny did not even share phone numbers, valid addresses of offices or organograms that would provide information about who was running the NGOs. In a country that has attempted to gain more information to provide security to its citizens, how is it that this many NGOs in Sindh completely slipped under the radar? The government is well within its rights to gather information about the operational side of NGOs, especially since they work under the principle of benefit to society at large. Transparency in social welfare is essential to ensure that NGOs continue to work for public benefit.

Questions must also be asked about the efficacy of the previous government’s policy. How many NGOs in other provinces have also managed to escape scrutiny? The sitting government must take note of this and ensure that such mistakes are not made in the future. A policy or law made for a specific sector must be implemented across the board; in matters of national security the state should be extremely vigilant and not allow for discrepancies, especially those that are this widespread.