IMPACT

Save The Children Shut Down In Pakistan After 35 Years Of Service For Violating Charter

06/12/2015 01:00 pm ET
ASSOCIATED PRESS

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani government shut down the offices of the international aid group Save the Children in the capital, Islamabad for violating its charter, the country's interior minister and officials said Friday.

Pakistani officials placed a lock on the gate of the group's offices Thursday night and asked employees to leave.

The officials also told Pakistani employees that the government wanted all foreign nationals working with the charity to leave the country within 15 days. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

They said the country's Ministry of Interior had asked authorities to shut the offices of the group in all parts of the country.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan confirmed that the government had shut the offices of the group for violating the charter under which it was allowed to operate in Pakistan.

"No NGO will be allowed to work against the interest of Pakistan," he told reporters.

In a statement released to the media on Friday, Save the Children confirmed that its office in Islamabad had been closed by the government.

"Save the Children was not served any notice to this effect. We strongly object to this action and are raising our serious concerns at the highest levels," it said, added that the group has worked in Pakistan for over 35 years and that currently it had 1,200 employees nationwide— none of them a foreign national.

Last year, the group's programs in health, education and food security reached more than 4 million children and their families, it said.

"All our work is designed and delivered in close collaboration with the government ministries across the country, and aims to strengthen public service delivery systems in health, nutrition, education and child welfare," it said.

Save the Children's Pakistan operations have been under intense government scrutiny due to a local belief that the organization was somehow connected to the May 2, 2011 killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. A vaccination campaign, run by a Pakistani doctor, was used by the CIA to obtain DNA samples in the city of Abbottabad, where bin Laden had been hiding in a secured compound.

A Save the Children employee in Islamabad told The Associated Press that the doctor, Shakil Afridi, had twice attended training workshops organized by Save the Children in 2009 and 2010 to train Pakistani doctors about the health care needs of children and mothers.

"That was the only link of Dr. Shakil Afridi with Save the Children. He was among more than 1,000 doctors who were trained by us about the health care of mothers and children," he said.

The employee spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media on the record.

He said a government commission formed to investigate bin Laden's killing questioned the group about the purpose of Afridi's visits to Save the Children and that the group had fully satisfied the commission's concerns.

He said the commission's report was never made public, but "We had unofficially been told that Save the Children has been absolved of links to Dr. Shakil Afridi."

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