AT nearly 100,000, the number of non-governmental organisations in Pakistan is staggering. In many ways this number is indicative of the huge void that exists in health, education and other social services in the country.
The state has not lived up to its responsibility of looking after the people’s welfare and that is where many NGOs have stepped in to fill the gap.
Some organisations are doing commendable work while others exist just on paper and have become dormant – or worse, are involved in questionable activities. Many foreign governments and donors choose to bypass the government, and channel funds directly to NGOs. Considering the usually large sums of money involved, it is imperative that a transparent system exists to ensure that funds meant for the most downtrodden and backward sections of society actually reach them. This system is exactly what is lacking in Pakistan.
The government has no uniform mechanism for the registration, regulation and monitoring of NGOs. Over half a dozen laws exist under which these organisations can be registered; however, the government hardly plays its part in monitoring the activities of NGOs under the relevant laws. Resultantly, the organisations are answerable only to their donors where the use of funds and the scope of activities are concerned. Huge inflows of foreign funds are expected and new NGOs have been formed in expectation of these funds.
Hence the time is ripe for the government to put in place a uniform system of checks and balances that monitors the NGOs’ activities and ensures that the funds are utilised for the welfare of the people. However, excessive intervention by the government in the affairs of NGOs is not a good idea and may open the door to corruption. Essentially, what is needed is cohesion and cooperation between the donors, the NGOs and the government.