By Zia Ur Rehman

KARACHI- As Pakistanis rally around their suffering compatriots, dozens of unregistered NGOs are siphoning millions of rupees by setting up relief camps in the city, Central Asia Online has learned.

Their camps now stand on roadsides and near traffic lights in Karachi, while their representatives, including children, go soliciting door to door and through markets.

“We don’t need to register our NGO … because we are doing relief work,” said Malik Ajmal, sitting in the camp of Punjab Welfare (PW), a self-declared NGO in Karachi’s Korangi Industrial Area.

“We have collected donations and goods since August 5, and nobody from the police or administration has come to check our NGO credentials,” Ajmal told Central Asia Online.

PW has spent millions of rupees to help flood survivors in Punjab, he said. However, when asked, he had no written documentation of collections or expenditures. PW has no office or office staff, he said. Only three PW employees run the camp.

No mechanism for verifying NGO legitimacy exists, admitted Lt-Gen (R) Nadeem Ahmed, head of the National Disaster Management Authority.

”]”]“The government realises that some miscreants may collect donations in the guise of welfare or charity organisations, but currently any action against these people can destabilise relief and rescue operations,” Ahmed said.

“Relief operations are so fragile and speedily conducted that nobody can enforce any check on them, so we have to bank on the intentions of charities,” Ahmed said, adding that any action by the government against them could discourage genuine NGOs at a crucial time.

Another organisation, the Al-Gilani Welfare World Organisation (AGWWO), has set up camp on Malir Cantonment Road. Hussain Shah Gilani, the camp organiser, told Central Asia Online that AGWWO is not registered with the Social Welfare Department (SWD) but it was registered at “global level” and had been running the camp since August 8.

Gilani did not respond when asked about his NGO’s international registration. Locals said they had never heard of it.

Concerned agencies, especially the SWD and Home Department lack mechanisms to monitor fundraising by private organisations that never registered with the SWD.

Hijab Manzar, deputy director of SWD Sindh, told Central Asia Online that his agency was aware of spurious NGOs collecting donations for flood relief.

“We can take action only if we receive complaints from organisations registered with SWD,” Manzar said. “We need special orders from the provincial chief secretary in order to take action against these phony NGOs.”

About 7,000 NGOs are registered in Sindh with SWD and are working properly in collaboration with the government, she said. Most of the registered NGOs are based in Karachi, she added.

Some of the supposed NGOs that have established camps throughout the city have never been heard of before. Some use the names of political party leaders to discourage official attention.

The government should develop a mechanism to monitor NGOs involved in relief and rescue operations, genuine NGO officials and development analysts said.

“Karachi’s local administration should check the NGOs to learn who is collecting donations, why they collected them, and where they were spent,” said Muhammad Habib, a Karachi-based development expert. The government should take strict action against questionable NGOs, he added.