The federal government has denied registration of 42 non- government organisations (NGOs), reportedly due to the objections raised by the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan. Every NGO in the country operates through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Non-Objection Certificate which are granted by the Economic Affairs Division. It is mandatory for the organization to be registered before the implementation of any project, and the MoU entitles the NGO to receive cash flows from foreign sources.The rejection of the 42 NGOs is not only limited to Pakistan being placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list and its subsequent stringent checks over the inflow of foreign funds; it is also linked to the distrust surrounding NGOs which can be traced back to the past years.Unfortunately, since the alleged involvement of an international NGO in assisting the American authorities tracking the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, the impression that NGOs are working on ‘foreign’ agenda has gained traction. For decades, NGOs have also been criticised by the right wing for promoting ‘Western values’ and it is this toxic mix of perceptions that is hurting the vital third sector in the country.The NGOs in question were working in the areas of poverty alleviation, women empowerment, education and health targeting the underprivileged sections of society. NGOs such as Society for Protection of the Right of the Child, Women Economic and Social Empowerment Foundation, Medical Emergency Resilience Foundation, Poverty Alliance Welfare Trust, Aiming Change Tomorrow, BRAC Pakistan, Rabt Development Organisation and Snow Leopard Foundation are a few amongst the ones that will not be able to work.The bigger question is that if state services are deficient and virtually broken why should the poor citizens be deprived of support by service delivery NGOs – Given that all such organisations work under an MOU, the EAD and other authorities should have the necessary capacity to monitor their activities. What is required is a robust system of NGO accountability and not an outright ban that the government has imposed. We support the government’s efforts to regulate the NGO sector but the citizens’ right to organise and carry out public service must not be denied.It is time that a parliamentary commission reviewed the matter and came up with guidelines or improved legislation instead of leaving the matter to executive agencies that use arbitrary and draconian methods in the name of regulation. *Published in Daily Times, February 17th 2019.