Senate wants govt to ask US to compensate drone victims

ISLAMABAD – The Ministry of Interior on Monday informed the Senate the government had disallowed 27 international non-government organisations to operate in Pakistan under a policy introduced in 2015 and all of them have right to appeal.

State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry, responding to a question of public importance raised by PPP Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja, informed the house that such INGOs had been denied registration under the INGOs policy because of their non-responsiveness, non-substantive projects and security.

He said these INGOs had the right to appeal before a committee headed by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal within 90 days of the adverse decision. He said the government was giving top priority to matters of national security and issues had come under observation with regard to working of some INGOs.

While giving the details, the state minister said as many as 139 INGOs had applied for registration with the Ministry of Interior under the new policy and out of these, 66 had been allowed permission to operate in the country while 27 had been denied registration. Out of the 27 INGOs, six INGOs were those which were non-responsive and were not cooperating with the Ministry of Interior.

He said the interior ministry had scrutinised the applications of INGOs under two committees, one headed by the additional secretary and the other under the interior secretary.

He further said the government had no information that 10,000 or more people will lose jobs as a result of the closure of these INGOs, but added such number might be very low.

The state minister divulged that fresh policy for registration of INGOs had been formed in October 2015 after the government received some reports that some INGOs were carrying out activities beyond their mandate as permitted by the government of Pakistan and some were operating in sensitive areas without having due permission. Prior to this, Economic Affairs Division (EAD) used to deal with the INGOs’ registration, but under the new policy, the task was handed over to the interior ministry in the light of the recommendations of the committee formed by the then prime minister. “The committee consisted of secretary interior, secretary EAD, chairman, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), DG ISI and others,” he said.

Talal Chaudhry said the committee had also recommended that INGOs should be given permission to work in Pakistan for a period of three years instead of five, no foreign national employee of any INGO would be issued visa for more than a year at one time, they would not be allowed to work on interim period until their fresh registration with the interior ministry and they would not go to the courts against any decision of the government.

Separately, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani informed the house that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa had agreed to give a briefing to the upper house on the matters of national security on his letter written to him on December 12, 2017.

The COAS, for the first time in the history, will brief the Senate Committee of the whole house during an in-camera session today about the matters of internal and external security, US President Donald Trump’s policy regarding South Asia and his recent visits to Afghanistan and Iran.

The chairman said the GHQ had confirmed that the army chief himself would come to the Senate along with director general military operations (DGMO). He said there would be a question and answer session after the briefing of the COAS.

In yet another significant development, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will wind up a debate on an admitted adjournment motion about the situation arising out of the culmination of Faizabad sit-in what the senators say an abject surrender of rule of law and constitutionally established government before a stick and gun wielding mob. “I have a got a word from the prime minister and he was supposed to be here today, but now he will wind up the debate on Wednesday,” said Rabbani.

Separately, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution recommending to the government to demand payment of compensation from the US government on account of damages done to the lives and properties of ‘innocent’ citizens of Pakistan as a result of drone strikes inside Pakistan since 2000.

The house also urged the government to send copies of the resolution moved by ruling party Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi to the UN General Assembly, NATO, European Union, Commonwealth and Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) member states in order to highlight impact of drone attacks on the social, economic and psychological conditions of the victims.

The resolution said it was a fact that the government of USA itself had been demanding compensation from the countries accused of involvement in damages caused to the lives and properties of its citizens. No one from the government supported or opposed the resolution before it was passed by the house.

The house also unanimously adopted another resolution moved by PPP Senator Sehar Kamran, urging the government to submit documents of all international conventions, treaties, covenants, commitments and agreements signed or ratified by the government of Pakistan before both houses of the Parliament.

The house referred a bill ‘The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2017’, aimed at amending the Child Marriage Act, 1929, to the Council of Common Interests for a report, saying the process might be expedited. The bill was moved by Senator Sehar Kamran on private members’ day.

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