PESHAWAR: Thousands of small and medium-sized non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have struggled through a government drive to regularise their affairs in an attempt to meet the criteria of the Global Illegal Finance Watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
In May 2019, the mapping of NGOs was staged to follow the specifications of the FATF.
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Earlier this year the provincial government deregistered about 3,851 of the number of 4,935 NGOs operating in various sectors in the region.
Sources said that 3, 838 NGOs were registered with the provincial social welfare department before the exercise was launched, and 1,097 were registered with the provincial business department.
They said that 3,030 NGOs were deregistered by the social welfare department while 821 were deregistered by the industry department for not meeting the requirements needed for their mapping.
Over 3,500 non-governmental organisations deregistered since May 2019
However, 12 NOGs out of 3,030 were later re-registered by the social welfare department, while 20 NGOs were re-registered by the industry department after they issued the necessary documentation, Dawn was told by sources in both departments.
The government has also frozen the bank accounts of all NGOs that have been deregistered. Registration certificates; constitution, rules and regulations; annual action plan and financial plan for five years; comprehensive annual budget; tax registration certificates; tax exemption certificates; tax exemption certificates;
The returns over the past three years; proof of withholding taxes; and three-year annual results analyses.
It also contained details of the three-year account audit; the auditor’s membership certificate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan; a letter of funding promise containing donor commitment; proofs of local residence; copies of newspapers and magazines and newsletters; passports and visas for foreigners; project reports; and minutes of board meetings.
Dawn was told by an office-bearer of a local NGO in Mardan that their organisation had been deregistered by the social welfare department without sending them the message about the information required for NGO mapping.
“We were not aware of our organization’s deregistration and continued social welfare operations in our village,” he said.
A few days earlier, he said, amid the organization’s deregistration, police and social welfare department officials arrived and sealed their office for ongoing social welfare operations.
We heard later that the police had reported a FIR against some of the members of the association. For us it was astonishing. When our village-based welfare agency does not know about deregistration, how can the police and social welfare department record FIR,” he asked.
In addition to fixing electricity transformers and organising medical camps, he said their association worked against opioid trafficking in the village, social evils and festive shooting during marriage ceremonies.
He said that neither international donors nor the government supplied them with money, rather than extracting penalties from the villagers for breaking those laws they had framed for keeping peace in the village from their organization’s key sources of funds.
He said that when militancy was at its height in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, members of their group used to play the role of guards outside government girls schools.
“We are in favour of regulating NGOs, but in the name of regulation, they should not be strangled,” a representative of the NGO network told Dawn, wishing not to be identified. First of all, he said the government should tell NGOs about its requirements and then promote them before controlling them.
He said that most of the deregistered NGOs operated at the level of the village and region, having no problem with foreign funding. He said the government could not make such regulations that have forced local NGOs to sink.
He said that foreign NGOs had internet services, offices and highly trained staff members and were well-informed about the requirements of the government, but local NGOs did not have such facilities, so during the mapping initiative they suffered.
A registry for recordkeeping and using Hujras (guest house) as offices was still used by local NGOs, he said.
When approached, the director of the social welfare department, HabibAfridi, claimed that certain NGOs had been deregistered and did not meet the requisite requirements. He said We have re-registered 12 NGOs that have applied properly and provided the required documents.”
He said most of the deregistered NGOs had been dormant for a long time.
When asked why, prior to deregistration, the social welfare department did not issue letters to such NGOs, the director stated that it was impossible to issue letters to thousands of NGOs at their office addresses, which they frequently changed.
However, he said the department had directed all the NGOs to provide the required information through advertisements in the newspapers.