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The federal government needs to immediately verify/check the registration status and funding sources of International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) and Pakistani Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) working to curb the use of tobacco in Pakistan.
It is learnt that such international and local NGOs on tobacco control are operating in Pakistan without registration with any government department specifically the Ministry of Interior, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) or the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) dealing with the registration and monitoring of INGOs.
There is an immediate need to check the funding of such INGOs and local NGOs under the policy issued by the Ministry of Interior for regulation of organisations receiving foreign funding and contributions, sources told Business Recorder here on Saturday.
For instance, a leading advocacy organization is operating to reduce tobacco use in different countries including Pakistan.
This is an INGO having Pakistan office, which is actively engaged in various activities with the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and with various local NGOs.
However, sources questioned that whether such an INGO dealing with Government of Pakistan is registered with the Ministry of Interior and is cleared by the law enforcement agencies?
Another question arises how the federal ministry of health can work with an unregistered INGO and senior officials attend their events regularly.
There is also a need to investigate such INGOs' funding and their partner NGOs in Pakistan.
This correspondent approached the SECP to check the registration status of the international NGOs working against tobacco.
However, the SECP confirmed that there was no data of registration of such INGOs with the SECP.
These INGOs/NPOs are not even registered within the category of Section 42 of the Companies Act, which deals with the registration of the non-profit-organisations and NGOs.
Presently, the Ministry of interior is following a very strict procedure for the registration of INGOs including clearance from the defense organisations and law enforcement agencies.
At the same time, the EAD also deals with the international organisations.
Due to global pressure to check illegal funding to the INGOs and NPOs under the guidelines of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the working of any INGO, without registration in Pakistan, poses high risk.
An expert said that the SECP could not legally regulate and monitor all non-profit organisations (NPOs) as mostly i.e. around 15,000 NPOs were registered and governed under the provincial laws.
In line with the SOPs of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the SECP is following procedures to regulate the NPOs but most of them are registered with the provincial governments.
It is important to mention that the National Inherent Risk Assessment (NRA) on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing has found that over half of the functionally active non-profit organizations (NPOs) in Pakistan fall under the FATF defined NPOs as these are involved in service-type activity as well as raising or disbursing charitable funds.
According to the updated guidelines for non-profit organisations (NPOs) issued by the SECP, besides federally and provincially regulated NPOs and INGOs, there is a large number of unregistered charities operating in the country whose exact number is not known.
Despite less resource availability or access to funding from formal sources, they may pose greater risk, if they have links with international terrorist networks or the UN listed entities, or their associated entities.
Therefore, unregistered NPOs were assigned high risk in the NRA.
There is an immediate need to register, regulate and monitor all such INGOs, which are working for good causes but not registered with any government organisation.
A senior government official said that the INGOs receiving foreign funding, foreign contribution or financial assistance in Pakistan were required to get registered with the Ministry of Interior. The INGOs are required to declare all foreign funding with the Ministry of Interior.
These conditions apply to all such INGOs having offices in Pakistan.
He added that all INGOs are required to get registered in Pakistan, if they wanted to work in the country. Without registration, the INGOs cannot work in Pakistan under the registration policy of the Ministry of Interior, the official said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020