Pakistan: Ban declared on work of NGOs in North Western Frontier Province

WLUML has received news from allies in Pakistan's North Western Frontier Province that the Maulvis have declared a ban on NGO work in Frontier Regions of Bannu.
The press statement ordering a ban on NGOs also carries a demand that money spent on welfare activities through the NGOs should be given to the MPAs [Members of the Provincial Assembly] for implementation. It is clear that a number of development projects are planned for the tribal areas under the Barani Area Development Project, USAID funded projects etc. which would be implemented through NGOs and there is a growing interest among government MPA activists to take control of these projects especially through a concerted campaign to discredit NGOs working in the Province.
Joint Action Committee (JAC) member meeting with Chief Minister NWFP held on July 16th 2003

JAC meeting was held at Aurat Foundation office to prioritize issues prior to the meeting with Chief Minister. The following issues were identified and were divided amongst the members to present before the Chief Minister Mr. Akram Khan Durani.

1) MMA Government's Position and Policy on NGOs (by Naeem SUNGI, Ismail - Rise).

2) Unnecessary and Excessive Procedural Requirements for NGO registration, re-registration and renewals (Shakeel CAPS, Rukshanda A. Foundation).

3) Transparency and Accountability of Government run projects in the Province I-e CIP, MRDP, Barani, Family Health Projects etc (Bakht Jehan EPS, Salim-Ur- Rehman GDP).

4) Issues related to the formation of Citizen Community Boards (Javed SWWS, Noor Mohd Dir).

5) Setting up of a forum for Civil Society and Government dialogue/information sharing on critical political, social, economic and legal issues (Maryam Bibi KK, Yasmin SG).

When JAC members reached the Frontier house the Chief Minister (CM) was busy in another meeting so we waited for more than 40 minutes. On his arrival, the meeting started with recitation of the Holy Quran. Two represetnatives highlighted the agenda of the meeting and discussed some of the issues.

In response of the above-mentioned points the C.M. said that MMA government isn't opposing NGOs except those against Islam and against the culture of the Province (Pukhtoon society). He clarified that the press gave a negative impression of many of their statements instead of a positive view e.g. the smashing of billboards in Peshawar. In fact the MMA government requested companies to voluntary change their signboards to one with sceneries and historical sites and sayings of Holy Quran. He added that he had condemned this incident [destruiction of private property i.e. the billboards] during his speech in the Provincial Assembly and had written to the Inspector General of Police and the Chief Secretary regarding this and registered an FIR (First Information Report with the police) against those taking the law into their own hands.

About education system he explained that they never banned co-education and women's education but they wanted a separate university, sports directorate and medical colleges for those women who are not allowed by their parents to continue studies in co-educational institutions. Moreover their government made legislation to ensure women rights in inheritance and declared 'Swara' [using the gifting of women to settle disputes between parties] illegal and un-Islamic.

The C.M. said that he recently distributed medicine of Rs 25 million in Al-Khidmat hospital and it isn't true that some funders stopped funding to our Province (NWFP). [The Heinrich Boll Foundation reported stopped funding after the NWFP government closed a women's shelter opened by women's organisations] He further added that he contacted the German Embassy in this regard and the Ambassador clarified the funding situation, which means their support is still continuing.

Due to shortage of time he suggested the remaining points of the agenda be submitted to his office in writing. He also agreed to future consultations with NGOs.