Pakistan

Last updated: 19 October 2019

Update

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 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.

In addition, 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.

On October 18, 2019, FATF announced it would retain Pakistan on its “grey list” for four more months. In February 2020, Pakistan might face further action, including being blacklisted, if it still has not made any significant progress on FATF’s 27-point Action Plan. Please see “News Items” below in this report for more details.

Introduction

The not-for-profit sector in Pakistan has grown considerably in recent years in terms of both its size and its scope of work.  Today, Pakistan’s approximately 45,000 organizations employ around 300,000 persons, utilize 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, civil society organizations (CSOs) are engaged in lobbying for legal and fiscal reform and take a pro-active 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 is 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.

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 a change of paradigm in the true sense of that overused term, and has profound implications for the regulatory role of the State and the nonprofit sector both.

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 FormsAssociations, Trusts, Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies, etc.Not-for-Profit Companies
Registration BodyInterior Ministry; Ministry of Social Welfare; District Governments; Provincial Social Welfare Departments and Department of IndustriesSecurities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP)
Approximate Number45,000449
Barriers to EntryDomestic CSOs: Registration under any of the four different laws with registration offices in different provinces.

Foreign CSOs: MoU with government.

Barriers to ActivitiesA 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.”

Barriers to Speech and/or AdvocacyIn 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.
Barriers to International ContactNo legal barriers
Barriers to ResourcesDomestic 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 AssemblyAdvance notification requirement; excessive government discretion to use force to disperse assemblies.
Population207,774,520 (2017)
CapitalIslamabad
Type of GovernmentIslamic Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth67.7 years
Literacy Rate57.9%
Religious GroupsMuslim 96.4% (Sunni 85-90%, Shia 10-15%), other (Christian and Hindu) 3.6%
Ethnic GroupsPunjabi 44.68%, Pashtun (Pathan) 15.42%, Sindhi 14.1%, Sariaki 8.38%, Muhajirs 7.57%, Balochi 3.57%, other 6.28%
GDP per capita$5,000 (2015)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2009.

Ranking BodyRankRanking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index150 (2018)1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index24 (2018)100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index28 (2018)100 – 0
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index117 (2018)1 – 175
Freedom House: Freedom in the WorldStatus: Partly Free
Political Rights: 4
Civil Liberties: 5 (2018)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7 (2015)
1 – 7 (2015)
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index20 (2018)178 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International AgreementsRatification*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)Yes2008
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize ConventionYes1951
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)Yes1966
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)Yes1996
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against WomenNo —
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)Yes1990
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 —
Regional Treaties
SAARC convention on regional arrangements for the promotion of child welfare in South AsiaYes2005
SAARC convention on preventing and combating trafficking in women and children for prostitutionYes2002

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

Constitutional Framework
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:

  1. Every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of [13] sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality.
  2. 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.
  3. Every political party shall account for the source of its funds in accordance with law.
  4. 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,[15] 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:

  1. Every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and
  2. 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

Administrative Measures that directly or indirectly deals with civil society organziations:

  • Policy for Regulation of organizations Receiving Foreign Contributions
  • National Action Plan 2015
  • Policy for regulation of International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) in Pakistan 2015

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

1. 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.

2. 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.

Organizational Forms

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.

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.

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.

Barriers to Entry

Domestic NGOs may register under any of the four different laws with registration offices in different provinces to operate in Pakistan.

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 new 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.

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

All domestic and foreign NGOs are now required to register or re-register with the government. According to the new 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 so Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Southern Punjab.

Over the past two years, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has issued notices to several non-governmental organizations 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.

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 December, 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 to several users on various internet providers of 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 to users 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. However, in an official application submitted by the AWP workers to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the party 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.

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 NPOs 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. International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) Policy, 2015
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.

2. Policy for Regulation of Organizations Receiving Foreign Contributions, 2013
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.

3. Circular No. 02/2015
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.”

Barriers to Assembly

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.

Advance Permission
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)

Criminal Penalties
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)

Enforcement
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.

UN Universal Periodic Review ReportsPakistan
National Report
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 RapporteursProtection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, 2009
U.S. State DepartmentU.S. State Department Human Rights Report 2017
Fragile States Index ReportsForeign Policy: Fragile States Index
IMF Country ReportsPakistan and the IMF
International Commission of JuristsNot available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online LibraryPakistan

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 ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

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-judg