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Why has the government exempted NGOs from signing MoU with EAD?

As Pakistan fights against novel Coronavirus outbreak the authorities have exempted Non-Governmental Organisations from signing Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with the Economic Affairs Division despite national security related challenges. Why has the decision been taken?

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The government on Thursday exempted local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) from signing Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) to utilize foreign economic assistance for a period of six months.

The exemption would only be applicable to those NGOs that had applied to EAD for signing of MoUs.

It is worth mentioning here that the previous government had approved the policy and had made it mandatory for NGOs to sign MoUs with the government containing information, including project details and details about the geographical area in which it was to be carried out.

Currently, 92 NGOs have signed MoUs with the EAD and around 100 organisations’ documents have been distributed to the concerned departments for clearance.

Read more: NGOs: Difficult relationship with Pakistani state and society?

It is worth noting that the United States of America and several European states were not happy with the recent crackdown against some of the International non-governmental organizations which had intensified since PTI assumed office. Recently, as many as 17 INGOs and their national subsidiaries were ordered to halt their operations with immediate effect and many of the employees were even asked to leave the country.

A letter which was signed by the envoys of United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Norway, and Switzerland was directed to the PM office expressing concerns over the “vague scrutiny process” and demanded an explanation for these actions.

“Restriction on civil society risks affecting Pakistan’s international reputation as a genuine partner on human developments and undermining the confidence of the international donor and business community,” the letter said.

National security will always be of primary concern to policymakers, but the fact; that 30% of the Pakistani population lives below the poverty line cannot be ignored

Historically, aid networks have been used as a cover to undertake clandestine activities. Pakistan is facing a multifaceted, hybrid warfare where the distinction between a friend and foe is oblique. There has been multiple instances in past, where some of the renowned and large-scale INGOS like ‘Save the children’ was asked to wrap up its operation in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s threat spectrum is multi-layered; its enemies operate inside its border, this make it rather difficult for security forces to combat them. Therefore, Pakistan needs to have all the resources in place to check for malicious organizations that are working against the interest of the state.

Read more: Dirty role of International NGOs in Pakistan – Asif Haroon Raja

Pakistani authorities are highly skeptical of international NGO’s, especially after 2011 Abbottabad fiasco. Pakistani intelligence accused ‘Save the children’ for being in cahoots with CIA, which they obviously deny. National security will always be of primary concern to policymakers, but the fact; that 30% of the Pakistani population lives below the poverty line cannot be ignored.