The Pakistan NGO Forum is an apex body of Five Networks of NGOs working in Pakistan i.e. SNI- Sarhad NGOs Ittehad, PNCC- Punjab NGOs Coordination Council, SINGOF- Sindh NGOs Federation, BANGOF- Baluchistan NGOs Federation and CORIN- Coalition of Rawalpindi Islamabad NGOs. Its aim is to create a conducive working environment for the non-for-profit sector in Pakistan and work jointly for protection rights of the disadvantaged sections of the society in Pakistan.
The Pakistan NGO Forum is member of AGNA. Affinity groups are groupings of CIVICUS members that exist to take forward CIVICUS’ mission and values. The Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) brings together national associations from around the world. National associations are those organisations, which provide and give a collective voice to civil society in their countries, serve as interlocutors between civil society and other sectors and struggle for the creation of an enabling environment for civil society at the national level.
State/civil society relations:
How does the state view and relate to civil society in your country?
The state is not clear about the role of civil society organisations.
The state’s attitude is sometimes positive and sometimes very negative in Pakistan.
The state has enacted laws to regulate the functioning of NGOs, however as in other cases these laws are selectively applied usually the application of these laws is politically-motivated. Despite having registration and regulation laws the state continuously subjects NGO sector to control through other laws and in some cases without any laws. Different state institutions have different perceptions of NGOs thus creating a confused mindset resulting in an approach of controlling rather than regulating or facilitating NGOs. Rights-based and development-oriented NGOs are usually perceived as a threat to state. However when NGOs work on charitable causes they are perceived as good NGOs.
Have there been any significant changes in relations between civil society and the government in your country in the last year?
The Government has imposed some sanctions during the last few years especially during earthquakes, floods and armed conflict. The interference of political party representatives, the army and the district government has increased. Government officials have played an important role in corrupting the humanitarian support organisations in Pakistan.
During the past decade there has been observed a significant shift in the relations between government and NGO sector, especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan whereby NGOs are required to get clearance from the respective corps headquarters, The criteria is not clear and the military is not bound to provide reasons for rejecting any applications. In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, NGOs have to go through the same procedure. NGOs are normally perceived as not promoting the local agenda rather they are perceived as promoting the Western agenda/interests. Pakistan is ranked as the 4th or 5th dangerous country for the aid workers on the basis of security.
What conditions do you feel need to be in place to allow for a good relationship between the state and civil society at a national level?
The state should support civil society to strengthen the capacity and role of CSOs. The interference in the work of CSOs should be stopped and a conducive working environment for CSOs should be created. There are security threats to CSOs in Pakistan. The Government should provide protection to the people and especially women working in CSOs.
The legal and regulatory environment:
Are there any particular challenges with the legal and regulatory environment for civil society? (e.g. are the laws outdated / inappropriate / inadequate / over-complex / partial / not properly applied / adequate)?
There are four main regulatory Laws for CSOs in Pakistan. These all are outdated, inappropriate and not properly applied. There is a need to develop a unique regulatory law for CSOs working in Pakistan. The application of regulatory laws remains to be a challenge for CSOs. The state needs to appreciate the diversity among the NGOs and thus introduce regulatory mechanisms accordingly; the state needs to appreciate the contributions of the civil society (through legislation/ policy introduction) in promoting the state interest.
What recent trends do you feel have enabled or restricted the efficiency of civil society?
The donor support for humanitarian work for people affected of manmade and natural disasters lessened and decreased the advocacy role of CSOs and converted them in a group of contractors. The recent trends suggest that Donors don’t respect the priorities of local NGOs, rather their support is limited to their respective country policies toward Pakistan, Since political interest form the basis of such policies, it shifts with shift of political interests thus leaving a hostile environment for the local organisations. Donors focus less on improving the capabilities of local NGOs as compared to their objectives for a particular funding chunks and its utilisation. The spirit of partnership and mutual growth and understanding is usually missing.
Funding environment for CSOs:
What is the reality of funding in your country? (Access to funding/ patterns of donor support/ restrictions on funding etc.)
- Pakistani civil society is donor driven.
- Funds are approached by paying bribery and share
- Nepotism and personal contacts are playing an important role in access to funding and it is a common sentence spoken among civil Society organisations that “Fundraising is Friends-raising”.
- The funds provided by International Organisations having their offices outside Pakistan country are transparent
Where is money going and for what purposes?
The major sector getting donor money is humanitarian and rehabilitation work.