The secretary for the Economic Affairs Division (EAD), in a Senate committee, called forward the agenda of the jurisdiction of international and national NGOs and their funding, announcing that nine applications for registration by International Nongovernmental Organisations (INGOs) have been rejected. With this decision on all INGOs, to require completing the process of fresh registration with the government within three months, this action was taken to keep a check on their activities. Earlier last week, authorities in the federal capital sealed the offices of international non-governmental organisation, Save the Children, with the accusations of being involved with the Central Intelligence Agency and Dr Shakeel Afridi in tracking down the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. These revelations have created uproar in the country, over foreign funding that has been associated with ulterior motives, other than simple developmental interests of the country.

What is problematic about this accusation is the fact that foreign aid is an inevitable part of these INGOs, ones that frankly have to run on aid from their host countries. Any hidden agendas or missions that they may or may not have are something that we can never be certain about. What the Pakistani government can work towards is having a process of greater transparency, while letting these organisations open up their branches. Secretary Saleem Sethi, briefing the Senate Functional Committee, claimed that when most employees of INGOs, apply for visas to work in Pakistan, they do not reveal that they want to work for any particular organisations. Rather the government only finds out, when their particular organisations apply for a visa extension for them. Here, in order to make sure that the country does not get any unpleasant surprises in the future, a more rigid screening process should be employed, to ensure the credibility of INGO’s and its employees, in the most effective capacity that we can.

Sources have accused INGOs of importing goods without paying taxes, and not keeping the government in the loop about what they spend their money on. For this, it is essential that INGOs should be registered, and it should be ensured that they provide information about their staff and funding to the government. So far, 150 applications have submitted applications for registration, while 27 are given interim permission, and the rest under processing.

This ambiguity and suspicion regarding INGOs, has gained a universal discontent from developing nations, and Pakistan is not the only country that has experienced problems with INGOs. Foreign aid has granted these organisations with a free pass to not be criticised, and criticism and accountability are necessary.