–Senator Babar says registration of NGOs by security agencies is like asking a wolf to guard a lamb
—Babar reiterates demand for accountability of state agencies
ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday expressed concerns over the recent ban on international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country without relevant legislation.
Taking part in the discussion, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that policy framework to deal with civil society organisations must be rooted in legislation instead of the security agencies that are accused of human rights violations.
The senator was alluding to the inclusion of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in an interior ministry-run committee for the said purpose.
Handing over the task of registration of the NGOs to security agencies is like asking the wolf to guard the lamb, said the senator as he called for rooting registration of NGOs, as well as accountability of state agencies, in legislation.
The meeting chaired by Senator Nasreen Jalil was attended by Senators Sitara Ayaz, Sehar Kamran, Mufti Abdul Sattar, Mohsin Leghari, Karim Khawaja and Farhatullah Babar.
Commenting over the alleged involvement of state agencies in the extra-judicial activities, the senator said: “It must find a place in the annals of the world history that the fate of NGOs working for the recovery of missing persons is in the hands of those very agencies accused of involvement in enforced disappearances.”
He said that previously the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) used to deal with the registration of INGOs. But now the interior ministry dealt with it through a committee that also included the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). As a result, more than half of the over one hundred INGOs that had applied for registration were disallowed to operate in the country, Babar said, quoting from a reply to a question recently asked in the Senate.
“It has been claimed that the new policy was based on Fatemi report but the report was never made public and demanded that it be made public,” he said.
Senator Babar said that there was a need for legislation to regulate the workings of the state agencies, adding that the Senate Committee of the Whole had endorsed a draft bill for the very same purpose. He also demanded of the government to explain the reasons why it was unable to bring the agencies under legislation despite Senate body’s recommendations.
Lamenting the ban on NGOs despite the fact banned outfits are also involved in relief activities, he said, “One is not sure whether the ban announced two days ago [by the SECP on Hafiz Saeed’s charity organisations] will be implemented in letter and spirit because such announcements were made in the past as well.
Deploring the indifference of the state towards curbing the issue of increasing extra-judicial disappearances, the senator said at the previous review [Universal Periodic Review] five years ago Pakistan had agreed to a number of recommendations to criminalise enforced disappearances. However, no steps have been taken in this regard, he added.
BLASPHEMY LAWS ARE NOT NON-DISCRIMINATORY:
Similarly, the claim in the national report that blasphemy laws are non discriminatory and that no one has been punished under it was incorrect. “It will do us no disservice if we admit that the fair and just implementation of blasphemy law presents challenges that the state is trying to address”, he said.
The claim of a strong commitment to protect freedom of expression is belied in the face of undeniable facts and figures how the Cyber Crimes Act 2016 has been misused by state agencies to stifle dissent in the name of national security considerations and for protecting the integrity of the federation.
He said that the promise of reviewing the number of laws that carry death penalty had also not been kept as today there were as many as 27 crimes that carried death penalty.