BoG playing black sheep against Lead Pakistan

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Munir Ahmed

Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD Pakistan) finally proved to be the worst case of nonprofit governance in its 27th year. For the last about two years, the members of its own Board of Governors (BoG) have played all the tricks to hunt down a gradually grown up and self-sustaining organization. It was launched in 1994 as a country chapter of the New York based LEAD International, the Rockefeller Foundation initiated in 1991 to mark the UN decade of environment and sustainable development.

Over the years, LEAD Pakistan grew up to national and international repute while other regional and country chapters were closed down because of the financial crisis after the Rockefeller Foundation stopped funding them in 2000. LEAD Pakistan’s success surely be dedicated to the leading professionals and visionary men and women of integrity who served its BoG for 25 years. The organization was led from the front by Ali Taqeer Sheikh, a forward looking professional, since its inception to the day he was asked to resign. It happened early this year after a conspiracy was hatched two years back. It began with the proposal from Shahnaz Wazir Ali, then a LEAD Pakistan BoG member, proposed to dissolve the organization and handover to LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences).

During her tenure, Shahnaz Wazir Ali got her cronies appointed on the Board to cluster a majority for her proposal. Now the ‘harvest’ is on with the forced resignations from the LEAD Pakistan Chief Executive and the Director Programmes. The only allegation was that management has failed to win any projects recently while they were getting ‘huge salaries’. It was a naked threat to the sustainability of the organization. The BoG took this deliberate decision for an organization having reserves of PKR 140 million in its bank account in addition to the tangible and intangible assets and knowledge products.

We all know that the nonprofit sector is under severe distrust in Pakistan for the last few years. Donors and INGOs have flown to other parts of the world. The re-registration process, launched some years back, is quite tedious, cumbersome and unduly lengthy. A thorough investigation of the executive members and the founders by several security agencies working under the Ministry of Interior. Then, a specific tasks-based MOU signed with the Economic Affairs Division to apply for the projects and grants. The organization is subject to ‘inspection’ of records and computers at any time.

Only about 60 INGOs and national organizations could have signed the MoU so far because the process takes much longer, and has excluded many organizations from the development sector. Some smart organizations could survive somehow using their skills and reserves while many are still struggling for NOC. Their Board members could not help them who were supposed to strengthen their respective organizations.

In the given scenario, closing down the LEAD Pakistan is an intentional murder of the self-sustaining organization that has grown from a sustainable development training program for young leadership to a well-respected think tank on climate change, environment and sustainable development.

The LEAD Pakistan BoG is presently being chaired by Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan. He is the same person who is restored by the Lahore High Court as Vice Chancellor of a Faisalabad university despite Punjab’s anti-corruption department and NAB cases of financial embezzlement of more than PKR 420 million. Other members include former Member National Assembly (MNA) Malik Uzair Khan, LUMS vice chancellor Dr Arshad Ahmad, LUMS Associate Professor Dr Mohammad Abubakr, Senior Legal Consultant Privatization Commission Ikram ul Haque Qureshi, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) Vice Chancellor Dr Nadeem ul Haque, and PACRA Managing Director Dr. Adnan Afaq.

Looking at the stature and status of these ‘professionals’, no one would believe that they are all working, apparently in connivance, to close down a self-sustaining organization that has developed itself to national and international stature and have huge reserves and assets in the times of recession. But, it’s true. They have formed a ‘closure committee’ to expedite the process to dissolve the organization that they were supposed to strengthen. The members of the Closure Committee include the BoG chairperson Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan, the ex-member BoG Ms Shahnaz Wazir who proposed to windup the organization during her tenure as a Board member, and a present Board member Ikram ul Haque Qureshi, and the interim CEO Ahmad Hassan.

They are doing it contrary to the orders of the Registrar of Societies, issued on the instructions of the Lahore High Court, the that has clearly asked the ordered the Board to take necessary steps to address the grievances of the LEAD Fellows Council, the general body of about 250 well-known professionals from different sectors. The due date has passed long back but no action is taken in the right direction.

Perhaps, LEAD Pakistan would be no more as an independent think tank on climate change when it is needed the most just because of greed and lust of a few masked professionals who lacked integrity for an internationally known Pakistani organization. The closure of the organization would be a deliberate criminal act of murder. In one way or the other, it seems that the present Board members viciously planned to eat-up PKR 140 million at the cost of a leading organization.

I know it would not make any difference to the BoG members if counted among the traitors but it would shatter the confidence of the organizations to have Board members out of their family and friends. It would also set a precedent for other criminal-minded professionals to close down or to hijack the professionally running and sustaining organizations. The superior judiciary should take the notice of this unprecedented criminal act.

The writer is a freelance journalist and broadcaster, Director Devcom-Pakistan, a policy advocacy and outreach think tank in Islamabad. His email: devcom.pakistan@gmail.com Twitter Handle: @EmmayeSyed