On April 8, 2022, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) struck down the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) (PECA) Ordinance, 2022, which was intended to criminalize dissent on social and mainstream media. On behalf of the Court, Justice Minallah ruled that “free speech and the right to receive information are essential for development, progress and prosperity of a society” and that their suppression was “unconstitutional and contrary to the democratic values.” Section 20 of the PECA states that “Whoever intentionally and publicly exhibits or displays or transmits any information through any information system, which he knows to be false, and intimidates or harms the reputation or privacy of a natural person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to one million rupees or with both.” The Court, however, found that the punishment for the offence was “unconstitutional” and, hence, both the offence and punishment would be “struck down.” The Court noted that the complainants may still “avail remedies provided under respective laws in the context of defamation.”
The not-for-profit sector in Pakistan has grown considerably in recent years in terms of both its size and its scope of work. Although recent government regulations have resulted in many civil society organizations (CSOs) becoming dormant, today Pakistan’s approximately 45,000 organizations employ still around 300,000 people, use around 200,000 full time staff, and engage in a wide set of activities ranging from service delivery to sophisticated financial services to technical advice in areas like agricultural extension, water and sanitation, and housing construction. Increasingly, CSOs are engaged in lobbying for legal and fiscal reform and take a proactive approach in defining issues for the national agenda. This new role is partly derived from the comparatively large volume of resources the civil society sector now commands.
A large proportion (38%) of organizations are not registered under any law. Even those that are registered are not necessarily subject to monitoring and evaluation under the regulatory system. To address this issue, since 2003 a CSO certification regime for tax exemption and systems evaluation has been instituted. While the government has introduced many administrative measures, it has yet to introduce comprehensive legislation to improve the regulatory framework for CSOs.
There is a discernible trend in Pakistan in which the State is moving away from being the monopoly provider of social services, and is creating an enabling environment for a variety of non-state actors to deliver a wide range of social services. This is truly a paradigm change and has profound implications for the regulatory role of the state and the nonprofit sector.
Generally, the legal framework for CSOs may be divided into several categories. Some laws govern the registration, internal governance, and accountability of organizations. Other laws govern how they are financed and managed. Still other laws govern the reporting relationship between the state and CSOs with respect to their operations or the manner in which they treat their employees. Taken as a whole, the legal framework can be considered generally enabling for civil society and the activities of CSOs.
|Organizational Forms||Associations, Trusts, Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies, etc.||Not-for-Profit Companies|
|Registration Body||Interior Ministry; Ministry of Social Welfare; District Governments; Provincial Social Welfare Departments and Department of Industries||Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP)|
|Barriers to Entry||Domestic CSOs: Registration under any of the nine different laws with registration offices in different provinces.
Registration of CSOs with Charity Commission in every province and federal capital under The Charities Registration and Regulations Act 2019.
Foreign CSOs: MoU with government.
|Barriers to Activities||A new policy for regulation of International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) in Pakistan was issued by the Government of Pakistan on October 1, 2015. According to the policy “There shall be proper regulation and monitoring of INGOs’ sources of funding, their accounts and tax returns. INGOs not fulfilling disclosure requirements will be proceeded against, under prescribed rules and regulations.”
Under the new Economic Affairs Division (EAD) Policy 2021, civil society organizations are required to obtain a Memorandum of Understanding from the Economic Affairs Division and share information related to every project and donor with EAD or face refusal for funding clearance by bank authorities.
Under the Charities Registration and Regulations Act 2019, Charity Commissions have been established in every province and every civil society organization is required to register itself with the commission and share information about audits, donors, beneficiaries, as well as lists of employees and assets. Failure to register with a charity commission leads to cancellation of registration by the registration authority.
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||In late 2016, the government began cracking down on online speech that criticizes the government, arresting bloggers and other activists under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2015, and potentially being involved in the abduction of three online activists. In February 2020, the government also introduced a new set of stricter social media regulations. These Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020 are subordinate legislation under the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act, 1996 and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. In addition, in October 2020, regulations were published that impose severe financial penalties on social media companies that disseminate “false” information that “threatens public order” or “public safety,” among other violations that can be widely and arbitrarily interpreted.|
|Barriers to International Contact||No legal barriers|
|Barriers to Resources||Domestic NGOs must register with the government before using foreign monies, services, and goods and must sign MOUs with the government stipulating, among other things, their geographical areas of work.
Not-for-profit companies were subjected to a license validation process in 2015. In order to remain registered, among other things they had to confirm that income and profits “are applied solely towards the promotion of the objects for which the association was formed.”
INGOs receiving foreign contributions (funds, materials and services) emanating from outside Pakistan or utilizing foreign economic assistance will require prior registration exclusively with the Interior Ministry.
|Barriers to Assembly||Advance notification requirement; excessive government discretion to use force to disperse assemblies.|
|Type of Government||Islamic parliamentary republic|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||69.2 years|
|Religious Groups||Muslim 96.4% (Sunni 85-90%, Shia 10-15%), other (includes Christian and Hindu) 3.6%|
|Ethnic Groups||Punjabi 44.7%, Pashtun (Pathan) 15.4%, Sindhi 14.1%, Saraiki 8.4%, Muhajirs 7.6%, Balochi 3.6%, other 6.3%|
|GDP per capita||$5,400 (2017)|
Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2020.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||154 (2020)||1 – 182|
|World Justice Project Rule of Law Index||130 (2021)||1 – 130|
|Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index||29 (2021)||179 – 1|
|Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index||124 (2020)||1 – 180|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 15
Civil Liberties: 22 (2021)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free
40 – 1 (2020)
60 – 1 (2020)
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Yes||2010|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||No||—|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||Yes||2008|
|Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention||Yes||1951|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)||Yes||1966|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)||Yes||1996|
|Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||No||—|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||Yes||1990|
|International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)||No||—|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||No||—|
|SAARC convention on regional arrangements for the promotion of child welfare in South Asia||Yes||2005|
|SAARC convention on preventing and combating trafficking in women and children for prostitution||Yes||2002|
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
The Constitution of Pakistan (1973) recognizes the right of individuals to associate with others to pursue common goals as an inalienable fundamental right. Relevant constitutional provisions include:
Article 15 Freedom of movement: Every citizen shall have the right to remain in, and, subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the public interest, enter and move freely throughout Pakistan and to reside and settle in any part thereof.
Article 16 Freedom of assembly: Every citizen shall have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order.
Article 17 Freedom of association:
- Every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of  sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality.
- Every citizen, not being in the service of Pakistan, shall have the right to form or be a member of a political party, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan [14A] or public order and such law shall provide that where the Federal Government declare that any political party has been formed or is operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan [14A] or public order, the Federal Government shall, within fifteen days of such declaration, refer the matter to the Supreme Court whose decision on such reference shall be final. [14B] provided that no political party shall promote sectarian, ethnic, regional hatred or animosity, or be titled or constituted as a militant group or section.
- Every political party shall account for the source of its funds in accordance with law.
- Every political party shall, subject to law, hold intra-party elections to elect its office-bearers and party leaders.
Article 19 Freedom of speech: Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offence.
Article 20 Freedom of profess religion and to manage religious institutions: Subject to law, public order and morality:
- Every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and
- Every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.
Article 25 Equality of citizens: 1) All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law. 2) There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone. 3) Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the protection of women and children.
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
Laws governing civil society organizations that either explicitly require registration or implicitly confer recognition include:
- The Societies Registration Act 1860
- The Religious Endowments Act 1863
- The Trusts Act, 1882 (II OF 1882)
- The Charitable Endowments Act (VI Of 1890)
- The Mussalman Wakf Validating Act 1913
- The Charitable and Religious Trusts Act 1920
- The Mussalman Wakf Act 1923
- The Cooperative Societies Act 1925
- The Mussalman Validation Act 1930
- The Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control Ordinance 1961)
- The Companies Act, 2017
- The Income Tax Ordinance 2001
- The National Accountability Ordinance, 1999
- The National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999
- The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2015
- The Sindh Charities Registration and Regulations Act, 2019
- Islamabad Capital Territory Charities Registration, Regulation and Facilitation Act, 2020
- The Balochistan Charities Registration, Regulation and Facilitation Act, 2019
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Charities Act, 2019
- The Punjab Charities Act, 2018
- Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020
Administrative Measures that directly or indirectly deals with civil society organizations:
- Policy for Regulation of organizations Receiving Foreign Contributions
- National Action Plan 2015
- Policy for regulation of International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) in Pakistan 2015
1. In 2020, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority issued a draft proposal titled “Consultation on Regulating Web TV and Over the Top TV (OTT) Content Services.” The draft rules propose measures to regulate the online television and on-demand video services. Civil society termed these proposals “against freedom of expression, right to information and digital rights.”
2. In April 2019, a number of Pakistani political and security analysts are calling on the government to overhaul the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). According to them, a fundamental flaw in the ATA is the vague and overly broad definition of ‘terrorism’, which allows offences bearing no nexus to militancy and proscribed terrorist networks to be tried under its provisions. The Supreme Court has also reversed the judgement in a case that also seeks to define terrorism.
3. In June 2019, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) proposed draft legislation on unified registration and regularization of NGOs/NPOs as part of compliance with FATF requirements. However, the legislation was not immediately presented before cabinet, which is the first step towards parliamentary assent to any draft law.
4. Also in June 2019, The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) proposed draft legislation on unified registration and regularization of NGOs/NPOs as part of compliance with FATF requirements. However, the legislation has not been presented before cabinet, the first step towards parliamentary assent to any draft law.
5. NGOs in Pakistan learned in September 2018 that the Ministry of Interior is drafting NGO legislation. Specifically, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has drafted the “Model Law for Registration, Regulation, and Facilitation of Charities Bill, 2018” without consulting NGOs and civil society networks and alliances. The proposed legislation would repeal all NGO registration laws and proposes to establish provincial charities registration authorities under which all charities would have to be registered irrespective of their registration under other laws. The NACTA has conducted several consultations with provincial departments but has not shared the draft bill with civil society or legislators. ICNL has prepared an analysis of the draft Bill, available upon request.
The legal framework in Pakistan recognizes four primary forms of not-for-profit organizations (NPO).
The Societies Registration Act, 1860 states that a society can be formed and registered if its purpose is to promote any one or more of the following activities:
- i. Science;
- ii. Literature;
- iii. Fine arts;
- iv. Instruction and the diffusion of useful knowledge;
- v. Diffusion of political education;
- vi. Foundation or maintenance of libraries or reading rooms for use among members or open to the public;
- vii. Public museums and galleries of paintings;
- viii. Work of art;
- ix. Collection of natural history;
- x. Mechanical and philosophical inventions;
- xi. Instruments or designs; and
- xii. Educational and medical services.
A public charitable trust, under the Trusts Act, 1882, unlike other trusts created for the benefit of specific individuals, is for the benefit of society generally or for certain sections of society. Charitable objectives can be classified under the following divisions:
- i. Advancement of religion;
- ii. Advancement of knowledge;
- iii. Advancement of commerce, health and safety of the public; and
- iv. Advancement of any other object beneficial to mankind.
The Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies Registration and Control Ordinance, 1961,states that a Voluntary Social Welfare Agency is an organization or undertaking established by people of their own free will for the sole objective of providing welfare services in any one or more of the following fields:
- i. Child, youth and women’s welfare;
- ii. Welfare of the physically and mentally challenged;
- iii. Family planning;
- iv. Social education;
- v. Rehabilitation and welfare of patients;
- vi. Welfare of juvenile delinquents;
- vii. Rehabilitation and welfare of released prisoners;
- viii. Welfare of socially handicapped;
- ix. Welfare for the elderly and destitute;
- x. Recreational programmes to ward off people from anti-social activities;
- xi. Training in social work; and
- xii. Coordination of social welfare agencies.
A nonprofit company may seek registration under the Companies Ordinance, 1984, if it is established for furthering the development of:
- i. Commerce;
- ii. Art;
- iii. Science;
- iv. Religion;
- v. Sports;
- vi. Social services;
- vii. Charity; or
- viii. Any other ‘Useful’ objective.
Public Benefit Status
Depending on the organizational form, NPOs are free to pursue both member benefit purposes and public benefit purposes.
Tax exemptions and certain other fiscal benefits are available to certain NPOs, depending on their purposes and activities. Generally, in order to qualify for tax exempt status, the NPO must confer and be seen to confer benefits to society as a whole and not to any particular segment of society.
The relevant laws and regulations affecting public participation include the following:
- NGO Policy, 2021
- National Civic Education Commission Act 2018
- Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act, 2013
- The Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013
- The Balochistan Right to Information Act, 2021
- Right of Access to Information Act, 2017
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Public Service Act, 2014
- The Sindh Public Private Partnership Act 2010
- Joint Forest Management (Community Participation) Rules 2004
At the national level, the special law for civic education and citizen engagement known as the “National Civic Education Commission Act 2018” aims to promote citizen’s engagement in law and policy.
Despite this law, Pakistan’s national laws, policies and decision-making mechanisms largely do not involve civic participation. National laws and policies are made by bureaucratic processes and are generally implemented without any public consultation. Consequently, citizen engagement remains low in national decision making.
However, district-level public hearings are organized by Deputy Commissioners who hold public gatherings every month and document citizen inputs and recommendations regarding specific local laws, policies or events. Similarly, senate standing committees at the national level are mandated to hold public hearings around decision making, identifying gaps, and making recommendations. Ombudsman offices at every province are responsible for organizing public hearings and settling citizen grievances at the district level. Some provincial legislation, such as The Sindh Public Private Partnership Act 2010, promotes and protects citizen’s engagement and public hearings for development projects.
There is very low understanding and awareness about public participation and civic engagement among citizens in Pakistan. The government does not publicize rights and laws for civic engagement as it does not wish to encourage dissent or citizens voicing concerns around environmental abuse, developmental projects or injustice against religious minorities. However, due to civil society efforts, there is now improved understanding of the Right to Information Act, whereby citizens may attempt to hold public offices accountable.
The laws in Pakistan have certain components of protection for women, LGBTI individuals, and other marginalized groups. There are special laws for the prevention of domestic violence, acid burning, sexual harassment in the workplace, sexual assault, and child marriages. There is also a national level law for the protection of transgender persons. However, these laws have not been adopted at the provincial level, where women, LGBTI individuals, people with disabilities and the elderly among others face barriers to accessing public services and other areas of participation. Similarly, there is no law or policy to protect or enhance the participation of women, girls, LGBTI and the elderly or other marginalized groups in decision making processes.
In addition, restrictions on public participation tend to fall more on groups and CSOs engaged in human rights promotion or involved in forcible abduction cases. CSOs whose activities are seen to benefit the government-e.g. by providing support in medical emergency, disasters or relief programs are not being subjected to the same levels of intimidation and operational challenges. Conversely, activists and CSOs involved in human rights promotion are often subjected to intimidation or operational challenges such as obtaining multiple No Objection Certificates from different departments and signing different Memorandum of Understandings with different government departments to carry out their legitimate work.
Through the recent national and provincial-level charity laws, the government has made it difficult for civil society to participate in public affairs and improve public participation in policy making. These laws require civil society to register with charity commissions, and prevent them from carrying out work unless registered. Similarly, requirements of the Economic Affairs Division to obtain a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for every project and foreign grant have made it difficult for civil society to mobilize the public on civic participation. The NGO Policy 2021 further requires every civil society organization to go through extensive screening from law enforcement agencies, further restricting civic participation.
The federal cabinet has also enacted special rules to criminalize dissenting voices on social media, leading, for example, to the imprisonment of activists and citizens voicing concerns over military involvement in politics, development projects, and real estate. Similarly, activists and journalists who raise issues of public concern such as environmental pollution are often threatened or forcibly abducted to silence them and restrict civic participation. Similarly, institutional barriers such as obtaining No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from district governments, obtaining permission from provincial home departments and obtaining permission from social welfare departments have restricted CSOs from participating and raising public awareness or resisting threats to public safety including climate change, illegal wildlife hunting, coal mining and/or deforestation. District governments and the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) often reject required No Objection Certificates and Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) (respectively) for CSOs who intend to raise awareness or build resilience among communities against illegal wildlife hunting, coal mining and deforestation. Such CSOs are often subjected to additional screening by law enforcement agencies after submission of documents to authorities.
Barriers to Entry
Domestic NGOs may register under any of the four different laws with registration offices in different provinces to operate in Pakistan.
Beginning in March 2018 in Punjab, August 2019 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, October 2019 in Baluchistan, December 2019 in Sindh and June 2021 in Islamabad, respectively, CSOs have been required to register with Charity Commissions under Charity Acts. Registering with Charity Commissions is now required in all provinces and the federal capital. Without registration with Charity Commissions, CSOs are not allowed to operate and obtain funding.
As of November 2015, in Kyber Pakhtukhwa (KP), the Human Rights Directorate of the Government of Khyber Pakhtukhwa is requiring all NGOs working on human rights issues to register with the Human Rights Directorate, or action will be taken against them. The KP Government is imposing this requirement based on Article 7 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Promotion, Protection and Enforcement of Human Rights Act, 2014. The Human Rights Directorate is defining a registration mechanism, which CSOs in KP are concerned will be onerous and expensive. The Human Rights Directorate has recently been formed, and it is now establishing the Advisory Committee and discussing registration fees and reporting requirements.
As per a 2015 Policy for regulation of International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) in Pakistan (see also Document Checklist and MoU between Pakistan and [NGO]), INGOs must reapply for registration through a new online registration form and obtain an MOU with the government. Approved INGOs will be registered for specific field(s) of work and specified location(s) or areas of operation, after consultation with the relevant federal and provincial authorities, and in line with the needs and national priorities of Pakistan. While the responsibility for monitoring and security clearance of NGOs was previously with the Economic Affairs Division, according to the new INGO policy, this responsibility has been shifted to the Interior Ministry. However with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, INGOs that have already signed MoUs with the government may now initiate projects for pandemic relief without acquiring a No Objection Certificate.
Lastly, in February 2019 the Pakistani government rejected the registration applications of 42 NGOs that sought to sign Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with the Economic Affairs Division (EAD). These MOUs are required for MOUs to obtain foreign funding and open bank accounts. The rejections came after Pakistan was placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list, an indication that the country’s financial sector has strategic weaknesses in combatting money laundering and terrorism financing due to inadequate regulations, enforcement, or both. The MoUs, which specify “geographical domain and nature of work of the signatories,” are signed for a period of five years and can be renewed.
Barriers to Operational Activity
The Policy for NGOs/NPOs receiving Foreign Contributions, 2021 was issued by the Ministry of Economic Affairs Division in June 2021 to regulate NGOs and foreign funding. According to the policy, every CSO receiving foreign funding must register its project with the Economic Affairs Division (EAD). Extensive screening from 14 different departments, including security agencies and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), will be required before bank authorities accept funding in a CSO’s account. Similarly, under the Policy, CSOs are obliged to share details of donors, funding, employees, audit information and activities with security officials during the screening process. Also, under the Policy for NGOs/NPOs receiving Foreign Contributions, 2021,CSOs are not permitted to work in prohibited areas by the government but such areas are not defined and can be arbitrarily interpreted.
Under the Charities Registration and Regulations Act 2019, Charity Commissions have been established in every province and every CSO is required to register with the Commission and share information, such as a list of employees, list of assets, audit information, donor information and beneficiary information. Failure to register with a Charity Commissions leads to cancellation of registration by the registration authority.
All domestic and foreign NGOs are required to register or re-register with the government. According to the INGO policy, INGOs will be registered for specific field(s) of work and specified location(s) or areas of operation, after consultation with the relevant Federal and Provincial authorities, and in line with their needs and national priorities of Pakistan.
On top of legal registration and defined certification requirements, some provincial and district governments have introduced certain additional administrative processes that are inconsistent and arbitrary in nature both in terms of their scope and procedures, with no instructions or standardized mechanisms in place for follow-up and appeals. These administrative orders require a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the provincial Home Department and the concerned District Administration for organizations to implement activities in some districts. Since the requirement is not uniform in its nature, its application is always selective. The requirement is particularly enforced in most districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Southern Punjab.
Since 2018, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has issued notices to several NGOs to inquire into allegations/complaints of mismanagement. Although NGOs do not fall within the legislative purview of NAB, the anti-corruption watchdog issued these notices on the interpretation that any entity using public funds is subject to action/inquiry of the institution.
In addition, FATF compliance has led to enhanced scrutiny of NGOs. The provincial governments have deregistered thousands of NGOs for being dormant or not complying with financial requirement such as submission of audit reports to the governments. For example, Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces have respectively canceled the registration of over 9,000, 7,000, and 4,000 NGOs registered in the province. These organizations were primarily deregistered for not sharing their financial records, including their sources of funding, audit reports, and activities with authorities as required under the relevant laws.
In addition, the Federal Board of Revenue, in collaboration with Pakistan Center for Philanthropy, has increased its oversight of the NGOs/INGOs for possible involvement in money laundering or terror financing. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has also been investigating the sources and use of NGO funds. In 2020, NAB forwarded the inquiries against NGOs, including Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Fafen, for further legal proceedings to the Ministry of Interior. It also sent its inquiry against officials of the Fata Rural Programme Project to the relevant department for action.
Federal and provincial governments have also been activating existing and new institutional mechanisms to regulate the work of NGOs and charities. In 2019, the federal government reconstituted the Trust Voluntary Organization (TVO). Created as an indigenous grant-making organization in 1990, TVO aims to tap the potential of NGOs to aid their development process and develop a mechanism for strengthening their contribution to improving the quality of life of neglected segments of Pakistani population. The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also began setting up a commission to regulate the functioning of charities in the province and ensure the effective use of charitable funds under the the province’s Charities Act, 2019.
In the backdrop of this increased government scrutiny, NGOs began demanding a mechanism to facilitate the required registration and liaising with the government. For instance, in February, a group of NGOs recommended the government to devolve NGO registration and the No Objection Certificate issuance process to the district level.
Lastly, the Federal Board of Revenue, in collaboration with Pakistan Center for Philanthropy, has also increased its oversight of the NGOs/INGOs for possible involvement in money laundering or terror financing. NAB has also begun investigating the sources and use of NGOs funds.
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
There are no legal barriers specifically restricting the expressive activities of NPOs. However, a number of government measures have suppressed individual criticism of the government.
In August 2016, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2015 was passed by the Senate and assented to by the President, and in April 2017 the courts for hearing cases under PECA were established. Various NGOs expressed concern that their recommendations to bring the Act into a human rights framework were ignored by the government and legislatives bodies and that, through this Act, the government can force Internet companies to remove or block access to any “speech, sound, data, writing, image, or video” without court approval. NGOs are also concerned that the government will acquire legal powers to censor and track Internet users, criminalize computer security researchers and hand over personal data to foreign powers.
According to ICNL’s analysis of the Act, specific concerns include:
- Data Retention and Intermediary Liability – the PECA requires any internet provider, which includes anyone that provides a premise or facility for the public to access the internet, to store internet data for at least 1 year and produce it when ordered by authorities, regardless of whether such production is lawful;
- Duplicative Crimes – the PECA recriminalizes actions already criminalized in Pakistan’s Penal code, which may result in similar conduct being treated differently and inconsistently;
- Vague Language Affecting the Freedom of Expression – the PECA contains vague language that may invite arbitrary and subjective application, resulting in violations of the freedom of expression and Pakistan’s obligations under the ICCPR;
- Vague Language Affecting the Right to Privacy – the PECA contains vague language that may invite arbitrary and subjective application, resulting in violations to the right to privacy and Pakistan’s obligations under the ICCPR; and
- Expansive Investigatory Powers – the PECA creates a new investigatory agency and provides that agency with expansive, over-reaching surveillance powers with little, if any, meaningful judicial oversight, which will likely curtail the exercise of the freedom of expression and the right to privacy.
Beginning in late December 2016, there were signs of a crackdown on online criticism of the government. In response to controversial images posted on social media against the Supreme Court’s incoming Chief Justice, the Attorney General of Pakistan wrote a letter to the Interior Ministry to take action under the PECA against such internet users who are “indulging in slander online.” Subsequently, at least three bloggers were arrested for posting images of the Prime Minister while labeling them as that of the Chief Justice. In early January 2017, four outspoken social media activists who expressed anti-military views were believed to be abducted by government agents. According to local partners, about a dozen social media activists in total have disappeared, and their Facebook pages (such as “Bhensa,” “Mochi,” “Bol platoon,” “Roshni,” “Taleban are oppressors,” and several others) have been blocked or controlled by someone else. In April 2017, a student at a university in Mardan was also killed by a mob for allegedly posting content on social media blaspheming Islam.
In addition, on June 3, 2018 — with the general elections only a month away — a website operated by the Awami Workers Party (AWP), which was once accessible inside the country, directed visitors to a message stating that the website was “not accessible” because “it contains content that is prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan.” The website, however, was accessible outside the country. The “Surf Safely” alert indicated that the website was blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which under Section 37 of the PECA is empowered to remove, block, or restrict access to online content it deems unlawful. In an official application submitted by the AWP workers to the Election Commission of Pakistan, AWP stated that despite technical evidence suggesting that the block-out on the website was directed by the PTA, “at no point did AWP receive any information from any government authority, including the PTA, informing us of any reason for the block-out, thereby denying us a chance to resolve the matter amicably.” Following the AWP’s appeal, the website became accessible three days later. However, the reason behind the arbitrary block remained unclear. Moreover, this was just one of a number of instances of political content being blocked without transparency in Pakistan.
In February 2020, the government introduced a new set of social media regulations, the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020. These rules are subordinate legislation under the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act, 1996 and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. Under these rules, social media companies will be required to disclose any information or data to a designated investigation agency when requested, and failure to abide by any of the provisions could entail in a fine of up to Rs 500m. The social media platforms will also be required to remove any “unlawful content” brought to their attention in writing or electronically signed email within 24 hours, and, in emergency cases, within six hours. According to the rules, the national coordinator will be the sole authority in determining whether a case constitutes an emergency. Companies may also be required to block unlawful online content and turn over data or information they hold. The national coordinator will engage with social media companies and may require representatives of any company to appear before him in person to discuss any topic related to the operation of the online system.
Civil society, including the representatives of journalists, lawyers and workers unions, has rejected and condemned the rules, demanding the government replace then with a new set of regulations finalized through a consultative process. Following this criticism, the government appointed a committee to review the regulations. The panel was tasked to hold consultations with all relevant segments of civil society and technology companies, in order to develop a system to regulate online content without violating personal freedoms.
On October 14, 2021, the Ministry of Information Technology published additional social media rules (“Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content Rules, 2021”), which authorize the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block any website or platform that carries any false information that threatens public order, public health and public safety and “decency and morality”. Social media companies must register with the PTA within three months and establish their offices in the country “as and when feasible”. Moreover, social media outlets are required to appoint an authorized compliance officer and grievance officer based in Pakistan, who must address complaints within seven working days. The social media companies can be fined up to Rs500 million (approximately $3 million) for various violations.
Lastly, anti-blasphemy laws have been used with wide discretion to pressure the country’s Christian minority. In addition, NPOs dedicated to issues of female education and empowerment have faced threats, attacks, and a number of murders by Islamic extremists, particularly in the north. While this is not a legal barrier per se, there is a role for the State in protecting citizens from such criminal attacks. Moreover, this underscores the point that there are cultural barriers which constrain the work of some NGOs in some parts of Pakistan.
Barriers to International Contact
There are no legal barriers to international communication and contacts.
Barriers to Resources
The following is a list of barriers to resources in Pakistan.
1. From March 2020, the State Bank of Pakistan will no longer clear foreign currency/funding received in NGOs’ bank accounts unless a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) is provided.
2. In October 2015, the Interior Minister announced the Policy for regulation of International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) in Pakistan. Per the policy, all INGOs working in Pakistan have been advised to apply online for registration with the Interior Ministry or else cease operating. According to the new policy, applications will be processed within 60 working days, but as of January 2016 many INGOs reported not receiving a timely response from the Interior Ministry. The deadline for INGOs to be registered was February 1, 2016. INGOs must sign an MOU with the government, which will stipulate, among other things, the work and geographical area of the organization. In addition, the policy requires INGOs to maintain full disclosure of their activities, their respective areas of work, their sources of funding, and how they utilize their funds, and the government is permitted to demand any information from organizations at any time.
According to ICNL’s analysis of the Policy, key restrictions include:
- An onerous and unclear registration process with no safeguards against arbitrary denial of registration of INGOs.
- Prior government permission required to: (a) access foreign funds; (b) provide direct or indirect assistance to other NGOs; and (c) dispose of assets.
- A thirty percent cap on administrative expenses.
- Prior government permission required to hire foreign nationals, and foreign nationals may constitute only 10 percent of an INGO’s staff.
- Broad and inappropriate bans on political activity and activities inconsistent with government interests or policy.
- Restriction on INGOs from working in locations not previously authorized.
- Government’s unlimited right to information and onerous reporting requirements.
- Broad and inappropriate grounds for cancellation of registration.
- No right to judicial appeal of adverse decisions and actions taken by the government.
INGOs have reported that the registration process is not only onerous, but includes numerous additional hurdles that are not outlined in the new INGO policy. Agencies have demanded additional documentation, in some cases full financial documents going back 5 or 10 years. One additional requirement reportedly demands fees of several thousands of US dollars. Additionally, local staff reportedly have been harassed and/or received phone calls at their homes from security services.
3. In November 2013, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) approved a Policy for Regulation of Organizations Receiving Foreign Contributions. Under the policy, domestic and foreign organizations in Pakistan must register with the Economic Affairs Division before using foreign monies, services, and goods. In addition, domestic and foreign NGOs must sign a Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the government, which will stipulate, among other things, the work and geographical area of the organization. The policy was deemed to remain in effect until the Foreign Contributions Act is finalized. Until 2016, several CSOs reported that the policy was sparsely implemented, if at all. Furthermore, news reports from June 2015 indicated that the monitoring and security clearance of foreign NGOs shifted from the Economic Affairs Division to the Interior Ministry.
However, in August 2016, the Economic Affairs Division of Pakistan issued a notification announcing the composition and terms of reference for the NGO Consultative Committee mandated to “[s]crutinize registration applications and documents received from Local NGOs receiving or desirous of receiving foreign contributions, in light of the ‘Policy for regulation of Organizations receiving Foreign Contributions, 2013’, other related rules and regulations.” The notification appears to indicate that this policy from 2013 remains in effect. The notification also specifies that applications would be reviewed within a period of four months, and the MOU between the NGO and the government would last up to two years.
However, with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, local NGOs have exempted from the requirement of signing an MOU with the government before obtaining foreign assistance.
4. On January 1, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) issued Circular No. 02/2015, stating that, pursuant to the National Action Plan on Counterterrorism, it will submit all not-for-profit companies registered under Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance to a license re-validation/renewal process to ensure they are not engaged in terrorist financing. Moreover, the process would involve review for compliance with the Companies Ordinance of 1984, including confirming that income and profits “are applied solely towards the promotion of the objects for which the association was formed,” and not used directly or indirectly for other purposes.
In April 2015, the SECP revoked the license of 108 “defaulter” not-for-profit companies registered with the SECP under Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance 1984. According to its press release, the SECP had identified 136 “defaulter companies who had neither filed any accounts, nor applied for renewal of License during the last 05 years,” and the SECP provided them notice and an opportunity to be heard. Following “detailed scrutiny of each case,” the SECP decided to revoke the licenses of 108 companies, “while the remaining shall be dealt-with shortly.”
Lastly, to support civil society’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) of the Federal Government issued a notification on March 26, 2020 granting local NGOs a six-month exemption from the requirement of signing MOU with EAD before using foreign aid. The exemption helped civil society to obtain and use economic and technical assistance announced by various governments to address the pandemic. The Ministry of Interior also issued fresh Standard Operating Procedures to facilitate INGO projects relating to the pandemic. The government further decided to immediately issue No Objection Certificates (NOC) to INGO projects relating to the COVID-19 emergency subject to their compliance with new guidelines announced by the government. INGOs that were already working towards the COVID-19 emergency response in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (PDMAs) were also not be required to have any prior NOC. However, INGOs were still required to submit four sets of their Plan of Action with explicit mention of funding sources and areas of operations (districts/tehsils) in the country. Only those INGOs which had signed MoUs with the government were allowed to work per the standard operating procedures.
Barriers to Assembly
A prior No Objection Certificate (NOC) by the district government in every province is required for any peaceful assembly and protest. If there is no NOC, force is often used to disperse protesters, who are then penalized for maximum of six months in prison or fine or both. For instance, protests against human rights violations, such as those by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), have been penalized under sedition laws and the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960.
Article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan protects the freedom of assembly: “Every citizen shall have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order.”
The Pakistan Penal Code 1860, Police Order 2002, Criminal Procedure Code 1898, and West Pakistan Ordinance xxxi of 1960 (i.e., the Maintenance of Public Order 1960) address various aspects of the organization and conduct of an assembly.
Formal written permission from the Head of District Police or Assistant or Deputy Superintendent of Police is required in advance of any assembly. As a result, spontaneous assemblies are not permitted legally, although sometimes they happen in practice without police intervention. The Head of District Police or Assistant or Deputy Superintendent of Police may refuse to give the permit, if s/he determines that the assembly is likely to cause a breach of the peace. (Pakistani Penal Code, Section 120)
The permit or license provided by the Head of District Police or Assistant or Deputy Superintendent of Police may specify the names of the licensed organizers and the conditions on which the assembly may take place. (Section 120) S/he may also stop any procession which violates the conditions of a license and may order any assembly which violates any such conditions to disperse. (Section 121) Any procession or assembly which does not follow the conditions of the license shall be deemed to be an unlawful assembly. (Section 121)
When force or violence is used in an unlawful assembly, every member of the assembly is guilty of the offence of rioting. (Section 146) In addition, anyone who joins or continues in an unlawful assembly, knowing that such unlawful assembly has been commanded to disperse, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with a fine or both. (Section 145)
Section 128 and Section 131 of the Criminal Procedure Code (1898) invite the exercise of excessive government discretion in the use of civil and even military force to disperse an unlawful assembly. If upon being commanded to disperse, an assembly does not disperse, any [Executive Magistrate] or officer in charge of a police station, may proceed to disperse the assembly by force, and may require the assistance of any male person, not being an officer, soldier, sailor or airman in the armed forces of Pakistan for the purpose of dispersing the assembly, and, if necessary, arresting and confining the people who form the assembly so that they may be punished.
On March 23, 2020, a Ministry of Interior order authorized the deployment of Pakistan Army troops “in connection with the prevailing situation related to the spread of COVID-19 and matters ancillary thereto.” One day earlier, the government of Sindh province issued a complete ban on movement and gatherings of any kind for any purpose at any place, with limited exceptions for gatherings of essential workers.
|UN Universal Periodic Review Reports||Pakistan
Compilation of UN information
Summary of stakeholders’ information
Report of the Working Group
Decision on the Outcome
Draft Report on the eighth session of the Human Rights Council
|Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs||Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, 2009|
|U.S. State Department||U.S. State Department Human Rights Report 2020|
|Fragile States Index Reports||Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index|
|IMF Country Reports||Pakistan and the IMF|
|International Commission of Jurists||Not available|
|International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library||Pakistan|
While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Policy for NGOs getting foreign funding declared ‘of no legal effect’ (February 2022)
The Sindh High Court has declared that a policy notified in 2013 for regulating the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) receiving foreign funding was of no legal effect as the federal government did not take any step to provide the legislative cover to it.
Law to regulate charities enacted to meet FATF requirement (January 2022)
The provincial social welfare department has informed the Sindh High Court that the legislation about charities registration was enacted on the advice of the interior ministry to fulfil a condition of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to evolve a uniform mechanism of registration, regulation and administration of charities fund collection and utilisation.
Social media companies could face Rs500m penalty for ‘unlawful’ content (October 2021)
The Cabinet has approved the social media rules, which state that every person or organisation shall have the right to express and disseminate any online content as enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973. However, the services of a social media company, a significant social media company or a service provider would be degraded, blocked, or punished with a penalty of up to Rs500 million if it fails to remove or blocked access to the online content or to comply with the directions
Balochistan’s civil society calls for unity to defend media freedom (October 2021)
The political parties and civil society of Balochistan strongly lashed out at the PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan and anti-media forces for usurping press freedom, free speech and expression. Speaking at a regional convention arranged by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ) and Balochistan Union of Journalist (BUJ) in Quetta, they called for a joint movement for safeguarding peoples rights including press freedom, free speech and expression guaranteed by the 1973 Constitution.
INGO policy (April 2020)
With the challenges of Covid-19 becoming more obvious, countries must construct a vibrant and responsive social sector response besides boosting the local economy, healthcare system, etc. This requires us to rethink participatory policy, interdependence, service delivery and, most importantly, democratic governance at all levels.
All NGOs asked to register with Punjab Charity Commission (July 2020)
The Punjab Government has made it mandatory for all NGOs in the province to register with Punjab Charity Commission’s online portal, which will be open for registration from July 5 to August 5. All NGOs must register themselves irrespective of under whatever law they are registered.
Government forms body to review new social media regulations (February 2020)
Pakistan’s government has appointed a committee to review the country’s new social media regulations. The panel has been tasked to hold consultations with all relevant segments of civil society and technology companies to regulate online content without violating personal freedoms. The process is to be completed within two months.
GSP report (February 2020)
The cancellation of registration of international NGOs working in Pakistan is another matter the EU is concerned about. Regarding human rights, the report has underscored the delays in appointment of a commissioner for the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR). This delay has been hampering the work of this commission and needs to be taken on priority basis.
Registration of 9,000 NGOs cancelled (February 2020)
To fulfill the demand of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), registration of 9,000 Non Government Organisation (NGOs) working in Lahore has been cancelled.
TVO Board meets after six years (November 2019)
The Trust for Voluntary Organisations (TVO), which has been constituted after six years, convened its first meeting in November. Created as an indigenous grant-making organization in 1990 following an agreement between the governments of Pakistan and the United States of America to establish a Special Development Fund, TVO was set up to tap the potential of non-government organizations. The purpose was to aid them in the development process and develop a mechanism for strengthening the contribution of NGOs towards a broader goal of improving the quality of life of the neglected segments of Pakistani population. The Trust became fully functional in 1992.
Pakistan Faces Blacklisting Over Terrorism Financing and Money Laundering (October 2019)
Pakistan is trying to avoid getting blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog, when it meets Wednesday in Paris. A report earlier this month by the task force’s Asia Pacific Group, which monitors Pakistan’s progress, is not encouraging. The report says Pakistan has fully implemented only one item from a list of 40 measures that the country should be taking to curb terrorist financing and money laundering. The other 39 measures were either partially implemented or in some cases overlooked entirely.
Pakistan to Remain on FATF Grey List until February (October 2019)
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has decided to put Pakistan on its grey list until next February and directed Islamabad to take “extra measures” for “complete” elimination of terror financing and money laundering. A FATF meeting in Paris on Tuesday reviewed the measures that Islamabad has already taken to control money laundering and terror financing. However, the meeting observed that Islamabad will have to take further steps in these four months, Dawn news reported.
Pakistan Wants China’s Help to Skirt Terror-Financing Blacklist (August 2019)
Pakistan is looking to China and two other developing nations for support in avoiding tough financial sanctions, amid signs it is running out of time to meet global anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing standards, according to people familiar with the matter. The government in Islamabad expects it will fail to comply with enough of the 27 action items set by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) before a final review in October. Pakistan has been on FATF’s “grey” monitoring list since last year, after a campaign by the U.S. and European nations to get the country to do more to combat militancy and close financing loopholes to terrorist groups.
Civil society under attack (November 2018)
The recent government crackdown on International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs), when 18 of them were asked to wind up their operations in the country in October, is widely known. However, the effects — direct and indirect — of this on the NGO sector as a whole as well as other pressures that have been plaguing the local NGOs recently, have received significantly less attention. Another phenomenon currently worrying the local NGOs is the increasing ‘implementation’ of the ambiguous 2013 ‘Policy for Regulation of Organisations Receiving Foreign Contributions’, as well as complex and arbitrary No Objection Certificate (NOC) requirements. Although the policy came into force in 2013, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law’s Civic Freedom Monitor observes that the policy was “sparsely implemented’’ up until 2016.
PPF challenges Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (November 2018)
The Pakistan Press Foundation has challenged the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 as being ‘ultra vires’ to the Constitution, especially Article 19, which gives every citizen the right to freedom of speech and expression. In a petition, lawyer Yasser Latif Hamdani argued that despite a lapse of two years online content is still blocked with impunity and in violation of the requirements of the law.
Pakistan’s online clampdown (October 2018)
On the afternoon of June 3, 2018 — with the general elections only a month away — many users on Twitter took to the microblogging platform to express their inability to access a website operated by the Awami Workers Party (AWP). The “Surf Safely” alert indicated that the website was blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which under Section 37 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA), is empowered to remove, block or restrict access to online content it deems unlawful.
Pakistani scrutiny for multiple NGOs could close Catholic Relief Services (October 2018)
Catholic Relief Services is among the 18 international organizations ordered closed by Pakistan’s new government without explanation. The move follows allegations related to the U.S. government’s pursuit of Osama bin Laden, in which a doctor’s false vaccination campaign claimed to be linked to the NGO Save the Children. World Vision and International Relief and Development are among the other U.S. groups affected, while the U.K.-based ActionAid and the Denmark-based Danish Relief Council are also under orders to close, the Associated Press reports. According to the Pakistani newspaper, The Nation, the Pakistani branch of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations is among the organizations. Pakistan’s Interior Ministry issued the order. The organizations have 60 days to end operations in Pakistan.
Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2018 presented in Senate (September 2018)
The Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was submitted before the House. State Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar presented the bill on behalf of Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. The Presiding Officer referred the bill to the standing committee concerned.
Pakistan issues new guidelines to tighten anti-terrorism laws (September 2018)
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has introduced new guidelines for the financial sector to crack down on money laundering and terrorist financing amid calls for reform of the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). The guidelines require entities in the financial sector to “develop an effective AML/CFT risk assessment and compliance framework”, according to an SECP statement.
Supreme Court permits Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa to run charity operations (September 2018)
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday permitted Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its humanitarian arm Falahi Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) to continue their relief and charity work in the country. JuD’s network includes 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance services. The JuD and FIF alone have about 50,000 volunteers and hundreds of other paid workers, according to two counter-terrorism officials. Earlier, the Pakistani government banned companies and individuals from making donations to JuD, FIF, and other organisations on the UNSC sanctions list.
Stringent laws against NGOs involved in anti state activities (July 2018)
According to a new law, NGOs found working beyond their agenda and providing false information will have to face a prison term ranging between 3 to 5 years and a fine will also be imposed on them. Any NGO if found involved in anti-state activities will be prosected against under counter terrorism legislation and their assets will also be confiscated.
Civil society welcomes extension of GSP-Plus status for Pakistan (March 2018)
Welcoming the extension of the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) – Plus facility to Pakistan for the next two years, civil society and rights activists have demanded the government take serious measures to implement the recommendations provided by the European Union (EU) to implement the 27 international conventions required to be compliant under the scheme. “The government should realise the fact that we are not compliant with most of international conventions and this extension of GSP-Plus facility has provided us an opportunity to make serious efforts to improve the human rights and labour rights situation,” said Karamat Ali, the director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER).
Islamabad High Court suggests making blasphemy law tougher to check its misuse (August 2017)
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has suggested that parliament make the blasphemy law tougher by fixing the same punishment for any person misusing it or falsely accusing someone of blasphemy. In a detailed order, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui also ordered a complete ban on the social networking site Facebook in case the website management does not conform to Pakistani laws.
Remove blasphemous material from social media in four months (April 2017)
Lahore High Court (LHC) has ordered the information ministry to remove blasphemous content from social media in the next four months. Justice Athar Mahmood heard the case during which the petitioner told the court that profane material has not been deleted from social media despite court’s directives. The Lahore High Court directed the authorities including home and information ministries to submit report and erase the material within four months.
Mardan university student lynched by mob over alleged blasphemy: police (April 2017)
A 23-year-old student of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan was killed and another seriously injured by a vigilante mob for allegedly “publishing blasphemous content online”, local police said Thursday. The incident occurred within the university premises. The campus was shut down following the incident until further notice and its hostels vacated to avoid a further escalation of violence. At least 45 people had been arrested in connection with the incident, according to Mardan District Police Officer Dr Mian Saeed.
Disappearances spark fears of crackdown on leftwing dissent in Pakistan (January 2017)
In early January 2017, four outspoken social media activists that expressed anti-military views were believed to be abducted by government agents. These disappearances have sparked fear in social media activists, leading many to shut down their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Bloggers Arrested in Pakistan for Posting Fake Images Online (January 2017)
At least three bloggers were arrested for posting images of the Prime Minister while labeling them as that of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Interior Minister Takes Notice of Social Media Campaign Against Chief Justice of Pakistan (December 2016)
In response to controversial images posted on social media against the Supreme Court’s incoming Chief Justice, the Attorney General of Pakistan wrote a letter to the Interior Ministry to take action under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act against such internet users who are “indulging in slander online.”
President enacts Companies Ordinance 2016 (November 2016)
On November 11, the president of Pakistan promulgated the Companies Ordinance, 2016, in order to replace the Companies Ordinance, 1984.
ISI to take action against cybercrimes breaching national security (October 2016)
The government has accepted a proposal by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to let its operatives take pre-emptive action against individuals and organizations breaching national security under the recently-enacted cybercrime law. The rules being formed under the new law will empower many agencies, including the ISI, to crack down on individuals “misusing” the internet, including social media. However, it is unclear how national security will be defined and whether the term will be used in violation of the freedom of expression.
‘Cybercrime bill to suppress freedom of expression’ (August 2016)
The activists of various NGOs have expressed concern about the passage of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015, commonly known as the Cybercrime Bill, by the National Assembly and said the legislation would suppress freedom of expression. The bill was passed by the Senate in July after introduction of 50 minor amendments. Now, it will be sent to the president for approval, which is necessary for its enforcement. In a joint statement, the CSOs on Thursday said their recommendations to bring the draft of the bill in the human right frame work was ignored by the government and legislatives bodies at all stages.
SECP registered 2,747 companies in first half (January 2016)
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), during the first half of current fiscal year (2015-16), registered 2,747 new companies, indicating a growth of 25% compared to the corresponding period last year. Three percent of the companies secured registration as public unlisted, not-for-profit, trade organizations, or foreign companies.
National Action Plan (NAP) is agenda of Pakistan’s integrity, security: Nisar (December 2015)
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan Wednesday said that the NAP against terrorism was the agenda of Pakistan’s integrity and security and there should be no politics over it. The Minister said INGOs were being brought under the ambit of law and their work was being made transparent. He said in the first two months, the process of registration of INGOs would be completed afresh. So far 127 INGOs had applied for online registration. Only registered INGOs would be allowed to work in Pakistan. It was the first time that 61 proscribed organizations had been put on record, adding that these organizations had also been banned from Pakistani media.
Nine INGOs refused registration (November 2015)
Pakistan has rejected applications from several international aid groups, including Save the Children, for continuing work in the country under a new policy revised two years ago. Nine international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), mostly from the US and UK, have been refused registration under the guidelines announced in November 2013.
NGOs asked to obtain NOCs before continuing relief work (November 2015)
A ban has been imposed on NGOs and international aid organisations working without No Objection Certificates (NOC) in Shangla following a devastating earthquake.
New policy invites frosty response from NGOs (October 2015)
The government has received a lukewarm response from local and international aid groups over the adoption of a new policy to regulate their operations in the country. Only 170 international and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have so far bothered to complete their online registration.
Pakistan: Withdraw Repressive New NGO Rules (October 2015)
The Pakistani government should immediately withdraw new regulations that will severely restrict operations by international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The “Policy for Regulation of INGOs in Pakistan,” announced on October 1, 2015, will worsen the already deteriorating working climate for international humanitarian and human rights groups.
Pakistan announces policy for foreign NGOs (October 2015)
Federal government has announced a policy for International Non-government Organizations (INGOs), envisaging on-line registration and signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) specifying domain and areas for working of these organizations.
INGOs Body endorses new online registration form, draft MoU (July 2015)
The high-level committee set up by the Prime Minister to review laws and regulations regarding accreditation and activities of International Non-governmental Organisations (INGOs) has endorsed the new electronic/online registration form and the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for INGOs.
INGOs will not be allowed to get registered separately as companies (June 2015)
The government has decided not to allow International Non-governmental Organisations (INGOs) to get registered separately with Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), as companies and INGOs’ sources of funding, their accounts and income tax returns would be properly regulated and monitored under new INGO policy.
Foreign Contributions Act 2015: Govt CannotAaccount for 65% of Funding of NGOs (June 2015)
The government cannot account for 65% of foreign funding for nongovernmental organisations in the country, including foreign NGOs and madrassas, largely owing to the lack of a legislative and regulatory structure to govern such organisations, said Economic Affairs Secretary Salim Sethi.
Save the Children Islamabad Office Reopened (June 2015)
The international aid organisation ‘Save the Children’ Islamabad Office has been reopened on Wednesday after the interior ministry conditionally allowed it to work for six months. The sources in the interior ministry said that 13 out 73 offices of ‘Save the Children’ have been allowed to operate in the country except the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and other sensitive areas.
Supreme Court asks Government to Provide NGO Source Funding Details (June 2015)
The Pakistan Supreme Court has asked the federal and provincial governments to provide complete details of non-government organisations’ (NGOs) source of funding. According to the Dawn, the three-judge bench headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja asked the governments to give complete details of the source of funding of the NGOs, the sectors where they spent money, mechanism to monitor their activities and the process of their registration.
Interior Ministry to Register INGOs (June 2015)
The Minister for Interior, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has said that in future the Ministry of Interior will register International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) as previously it was done by the Economic Affairs Division (EAD).
Government bans non-governmental organisation in FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan (June 2015)
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan banned all non-governmental organisations in Fata, Gilgit-Baltistan and other declared security zones.
Pakistan allows global NGOs for 6 months; re-registration must (June 2015)
Pakistan today allowed international aid agencies to function in the country for six months but made it mandatory for them to re-register within three months as part of the crackdown that led to the sealing of the offices of ‘Save the Children’.
Canada wants Pakistan to address NGOs’ concerns: (April 2015)
Canada is the second country after United States, which asked to address the concerns of stakeholders over the proposed legislation to regulate foreign funding of non-governmental organisations under Pakistan’s National Action Plan to counter terrorism.
US concerned over law regulating foreign-funded NGOs (April 2015)
As Pakistan moves to regulate foreign funding of non-governmental organisations under its National Action Plan to counter terrorism, Islamabad has run into concerns from an unexpected source: the United States. US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson met with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday to address some of Washington’s concerns with the proposed new regulations.
Government revokes licenses of 108 NGOs (April 2015)
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has revoked the licences of 108 non-government organisations (Section 42 not-for-profit companies) working in Pakistan, as they failed to comply with the governments directions to renew their licences under the National Action Plan (NAP) for Counterterrorism.
Law to monitor INGOs finances (January 2015)
In order to implement the National Action Plan (NAP) for rooting out terrorism, the government is all set to submit the much-awaited draft of the Foreign Contribution Act 2015 before the Cabinet, proposing to bind International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) having an annual portfolio of $5 million to register, declare details of all foreign funding sources and to put in place effective monitoring mechanisms.
Forum condemns harassment of civil society (December 2014)
The Pakistan Civil Society Forum (PCSF) condemned the harassment of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) by police in the name of assuring security. In a statement, Muhammad Tahseen, the PCSF secretary general, claimed that police were intimidating NGO workers. “Police have started visiting offices of NGOs in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and interrogating workers about their programmes, activities and funding sources,” he said.
Civil Society Protests Against Cleric Who Does Not Condemn School Attack (December 2014)
Islamabad police halted a protest organized by Pakistan’s civil society against the pro-Taliban statements of the head cleric of Lal Masjid, allegedly because it ‘went beyond limits.’ “I was shocked to see police so biased toward Lal Masjid when we tried to protest against the chief cleric of Lal Masjid for not condemning the Taliban [school] siege in Peshawar,” said one of the dozens participating in the protest.
Draft law being prepared to subvert cyber-crimes (November 2014)
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said a draft law is being prepared to subvert cyber-crimes and terrorist financing, according to a report published by Radio Pakistan. He made this statement while addressing the International Branchless Banking Conference. According to Dar, the draft will be presented in Parliament for legislation. He also said the use of digital financial channels such as electronic and mobile banking reduces the chances of fraud and theft.
Government policy on foreign-funded NGOs approved by ECC (December 2013)
Women in civil society (May 2013)
Security needed for rights activists in KP, Fata (February 2013)
Ten Pakistani journalists killed in 2012 (February 2013)
“Unauthorized” operations of NGOs in Pakistan (December 2012)
Pakistan Foreign Minister Downplays Human Rights Violations (November 2012)
CIVICUS calls on Pakistan to implement UPR recommendations (November 2012)
Human Rights Council elections: Pander time (November 2012)
Pakistan Foreign Minister touts human rights record at UN (October 2012)
Need to redefine and restructure civil society framework (October 2012)
Civil society disappointed on state of human rights (October 2012)
Freedom of expression is good, but misuse a crime (September 2012)
Foreign NGO workers face expulsion (September 2012)
NGOs call for end to threats against civil society activists (September 2012)
Another national organization goes down the drain (August 2012)
Pakistan increasingly dangerous for CSO work (July 2012)
Concern over attacks on aid workers (May 2012)
NGO goes to court seeking witness protection laws (February 2012)
Role of civil society in budget process (January 2012)
Pakistanis’ distrust of foreigners impedes aid groups (January 2012)
PPP, civil society hold pro-democracy demonstrations (January 2012)
HRCP presents bleak picture of human rights in 2010-2011 (December 2011)
Corporate sector must strengthen institutional mechanism (December 2011)
Challenges to Pakistan’s democracy (September 2011)
Eight Pakistanis working for US NGO kidnapped (July 2011)
A paradox retarding Pakistan’s democracy? (April 2011)
NGOs criticise govt’s flood relief efforts (December 2010)