ISLAMABAD               -           The federal government has eased restric­tions on international aid agencies working in Pakistan to better allow them to carry out relief work in the country to fight against the deadly coronavirus.

The Ministry of Interior has waived the con­dition that required a mandatory no objection certificate (NoC) before different projects or relief activates could be started. This easement applies to all international non-government organizations (INGOs) already registered with the government of Pakistan.

For this purpose, the ministry has issued new guidelines for international aid groups, seeking their cooperation with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and provincial disaster management authorities (PDMAs).

“While acknowledging the important role of the INGOs in emergency response across the globe and in Pakistan, it has been decid­ed to adopt a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for already registered INGOs, who wants to operate and facilitate authorities in Pakistan, during the COVID-19 crisis in the country,” said the new guidelines.

The Ministry said that no prior NOC would be required by foreign NGOs working for COVID-19 emergency response in collaboration with NDMA and PDMAs. The condition of obtaining a prior is exempted for a period of six months, it added.

However, it would be mandatory for INGOs to “submit four sets of their Plan of Action with explicit mention of the funding sources and areas of operations (districts / tehsils) in Pakistan.” Under the SOP; only those INGOs that have signed a MoU (memorandum of un­derstanding) with the government of Pakistan are allowed to work. There are a total 70 such INGOs in the country, the Ministry clarified.

INGOs must submit the project completion re­port, duly verified by NDMA or PDMA concerned, within 15 days of the project’s completion The guidelines further say that INGOs are allowed to operate only in eight areas of work, duly ap­proved by the government for the INGO sector in Pakistan. “No new area of work is allowed to any INGO for this COVID-19 emergency response.”

On Thursday, the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) of the federal government, through an executive notification, made the changes official. The exemption is given under clause-11 of Policy for Regulation of Organizations Receiving For­eign Contributions 2013 and with the approval of Ministry of Finance, will be applicable only to those NGOs who have already applied to the EAD for permission/signing of MoU. In 2015, then government had moved to enhance its monitor­ing for INGOs by introducing a new policy frame­work to “streamline” the work of international aid groups in the country. As part of this frame­work, all INGOs present in Pakistan or desirous of operating in the country were required to re-register themselves with the Ministry of Interior by signing MoU