File Photo of Members of Egypt's Parliament in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016 (AP)
Egypt's parliament provisionally approved on Monday a draft law aimed at regulating the performance of NGOs.
The 89-article law was drafted by the chairman of parliament's social solidarity committee Abdel-Hadi El-Qasabi and 203 other MPs.
El-Qasabi said that MPs has decided not to wait until a cabinet-drafted law on NGOs is submitted to parliament.
"We decided to take the initiative in drafting a law on NGOs and opening a debate on it," said El-Qasabi, adding that the draft law includes two chapters on foreign NGOs.
Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al told MPs in a plenary session on Monday that "NGOs can be a blessing or a curse."
"They can be a blessing if their business is confined to raising the awareness of citizens, spreading the culture of democracy and contributing to development in society," said Abdel-Al.
"They can be a curse if they move to spread chaos, disrupt national security and serve personal interests."
Abdel-Al said that parliament should take its time in debating the articles of the new law to guarantee that they are in line with the constitution and international conventions in a way that does not allow NGOs to operate at the expense of national security.
"We will not accept any kind of pressure from inside or outside [the country]," said Abdel-Al, adding that "Egypt's parliament was democratically elected and it stands firm against any pressure."
Abdel-Al said that Israel, which the West likes to describe as the oasis of democracy in the Middle East, has issued a new NGO law that has imposed tough restrictions on foreign funding.
"The prime minister of this country has said that he will not allow any source of foreign funding that might harm his country's national security," said Abdel-Al.
El-Qasabi said NGOs and civil society organisations sent parliament a letter where they denied that NGOs are used as a cover for obtaining corrupt money that can be used as a weapon against ordinary Egyptian citizens and disrupting the country's national security.
"We do not accept [the suggestion] that corrupt people with foreign agendas and with personal interests speak on our behalf," El-Qasabi cited the letter from NGOs as saying.
One of the most controversial articles in the draft law stipulates that foreign NGOs looking to operate in Egypt must get prior approval from a regulatory body entitled the National NGO Apparatus.
Any NGO found guilty of receiving foreign funding without prior approval will be dissolved.
"NGOs should work towards the public interest and their money should not be used in any political activities such as funding parliamentary candidates or political parties, inciting hatred and disseminating sectarian tension or disrupting national security," said El-Qasabi.
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Magdi El-Agati told speaker Abdel-Al that Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali has contacted him by phone to ask that the debate on the draft NGO law be postponed.
El-Agati said the government-drafted NGO law was approved by the cabinet at the end of October and referred to parliament on 2 November.
"Although MPs have the right of legislation, I urge you to wait until the government draft is also discussed," said El-Agati.
In response, speaker Abdel-Al said that "parliament has the right to discuss the two NGO drafts and the government has the right to comment on parliament's draft and ask for amendments."