ISLAMABAD: Authorities in the federal capital sealed the offices of international non-governmental organisation Save the Children on Thursday, said an official.
Save the Children has previously accused of involvement with the Central Intelligence Agency and Dr Shakeel Afridi in tracking down the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.
The decision was taken on the directive of the interior ministry for its alleged involvement in some anti-state activities, said the official of the administration. The notification was issued by the Economic Affairs Division (EAD).
The notification reads: “The competent authority has been pleased to decide that M/s Save the Children international be asked to wind up its offices/operations in Pakistan forthwith and also issue direction to its expatriates to leave Pakistan within 15 days.”
The official said soon after the notification, the Islamabad administration sealed the office, which is situated in F-6/2 on Margalla Road.
A senior official of the administration said a high-powered committee had decided last week to shut the INGO for its allegedly involvement in some anti-state activities.
The government had already decided the scrutiny of all the INGOs currently operating in the country.
In this regard a committee was formed, headed by PM’s Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, comprising representatives of the Intelligence Bureau, ISI, interior ministry,
EAD and the Foreign Office to evaluate security agencies’ reports on the credibility and activities of the NGOs in question.
“We have sealed the office of Save the Children on government instructions,” Kamran Cheema, a senior government official told AFP.
“We don’t know the reasons behind this order. We were sent a three-line notification by the interior ministry saying that this office should be sealed and all the expatriate staff be sent back to their countries within 15 days,” Cheema said. The notification was issued by Economic Affairs Division (EAD).
A copy of notification available with The Express Tribune
The government did not make any formal announcement but an official from the interior ministry said that the agency was involved in the “anti-Pakistan activities”.
“Their activities were being monitored since a long time. They were doing something which was against Pakistan’s interest,” said the official without giving his name because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Local police chief Hakim Khan told AFP that one of his officers was standing guard outside the charity’s office on the orders of the government but that he was “unaware of the reasons behind closing down the Save the Children office”.
A policeman stands guard outside the office of the international charity ‘Save the Children’ sealed by order of authorities in Islamabad on June 11, 2015
Pakistan has since hardened its policies towards international aid groups, accusing them of being covers for spying operations and has repeatedly warned them to restrict their activities, vowing stern action for any ‘suspicious’ activity.
A senior administration official said a high-powered committee had been formed for scrutiny of INGOs under Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi. It includes members from the Intelligence Bureau, ISI, the interior ministry, EAD and the Foreign Office.
Save the Children says it had not been served a notice
A Save the Children Pakistan spokesperson confirmed early on Friday that its office in Islamabad had been closed and then sealed by the authorities. However, it claimed that they had not been served any notice to this effect.
“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.”
In a statement, the NGO added that it had been working in Pakistan for more than 35 years with over 1,200 staff members working across the nation.
“Save the Children does not have any expatriate staff working in Pakistan, all our staff are Pakistani.”
It added that all their work was designed and delivered in close collaboration with the government ministries across the country and that their programmes in health, education and food security had reached over four million children and their families last year.