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Pakistani NGOs slam govt for restrictions

By Shamim Shahid-PESHAWAR: Members of civil society organizations, engaged in development, relief, welfare and awareness activities throughout Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjacent Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) have denounced the recent restrictions on the part of government, which they said aimed to curbing voices against undemocratic, inhuman and unconstitutional acts.

“Government has made not only compulsory but even too much complicated the No Objection Certificates (NOC) for working in the region, which made harmful their tasks,” remarked Arshad Haroon chairman of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network Organizations during a press conference here at Peshawar on Thursday. Flanked by Zar Ali Afridi of Tribal NBGO’s Consortium, Ms Shabina Ayaz of Aurat Foundation and Ms Sana Ijaz of Pakhtunkhwa Ollassi Tehrik,  Arshad Haroon said that as a result of such restrictions, now almost civil society organizations halted its activities throughout the region.

In particular, Arshad Haroon diverted attentions towards government’s recent steps against Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, South Asia Partnership (SAP) Pakistan and several other organizations. He said that all these organizations are not only making valuable contribution in welfare and development activities but also playing key role in promotion of literacy and education, return of peace, writ of law and strengthening of democratic process in the country. It seems that through such restrictions and complications, certain elements within government intends to curb voices aimed at creating awareness and sense of responsibility amongst common men.

Arshad Haroon while elaborating his point of view said, “The governments in the past and even now have made several attempts to control and overtly regulate the working of this sector. On the other hand, NGOs community has defended itself by invoking the fundamental freedoms of association and expression. The NGOs continued to protect and promote the rights of the people guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan and international treaties. This work of the development organizations is in fact helping improve a soft image of Pakistan in the international community.

He added that surprisingly since the past few years stringent policies and rules have been introduced that are affecting different aspects of NGOs functioning and curbing their rights to speak freely on government’s policies and actions. In continuation of these actions of the government, currently new rules have been introduced by Society Registrar and Social Welfare Department (as majority NGOs are registered under these laws) making it difficult to operate and implement their developmental activities.

New rules for annual renewal of registration, issuance of No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for every activity in almost every district, special audits, surprise visits and whimsical enforcement of rules are few examples of such hurdles. The district and provincial governments are adding extra steps and processes for NGOs seeking approvals and making it almost impossible for them to work. More importantly KP and FATA, which already rank low in terms of human development, are getting more neglected. Here the developmental organizations are facing more restrictions.

Zar Ali Afridi pointed out that around 6500 beneficiaries and employees are associated with one of SAP Pakistan project in FATA. But the government has made uncertain all these people with recent acts and restrictions. “We do support all steps and acts aimed at implementation of National Action Plan (NAP) for eradication of terror but there is no justification to harass and terrorize peaceful, patriotic and dedicated members and office bearers of civil society organizations, he added and urged the government to review all such steps.

Sana Ijaz and Shabina Ayaz said that it is ironic that there is no any restrictions for the NGO’s engaged in development activities in a few cities but no one is allowed to perform or contribute in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. They demanded of the government to early review all such steps and acts as it hindering the activities of civil society organization, which also play as watch dog against government organizations and political parties.

 

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