Pakistan has expelled foreign members of the western charity organization Save the Children on suspicions that they helped the U.S. government locate and ultimately assassinate former al-Qaeda terror chief Osama bin Laden.
The Ministry of Interior has informed the charity that six foreign staff-members must leave the country within two weeks.
A spokesman for STC, which still has about 2,000 Pakistani employees who will continue working in the country, said the government provided no explanation for the expulsion order.
“We are working with the government to find out the details for this action,” he said.
According to reports, STC, which has denied the allegation, is accused of having enabled communications between U.S. government officials and a Pakistani doctor named Shakil Afridi – who, Islamabad claims, allegedly ran a fake vaccination program for the CIA in order to obtain DNA samples that ultimately lead the Americans to bin Laden.
In May 2011, bin Laden was shot and killed in a compound in Abbottabad, a garrison town not far from the capital Islamabad.
Soon thereafter, Afridi was arrested and later sentenced to 33 years in prison on the charge of high treason.
Khan’s attorney, Samiullah Khan, said his client is innocent of all charges.
A spokesman for STC told BBC: "We never knowingly employ anyone who has worked for the CIA or any other security service; it is totally against our impartial humanitarian mandate... Save the Children is a global organization and has a zero tolerance policy for people involved in work that is not humanitarian.”
The spokesman added: "We reiterate our offer to the Pakistani authorities to examine our country office financial records and interview any of our staff concerned with our operation there."
While Washington has repeatedly called for Afridi’s release, Pakistani authorities have made it harder for foreign organizations to gain visas to enter the country.
Earlier this year, however, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed Afridi’s role in the search for bin Laden, but also defended him.
"[Afridi] was an individual who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation," Panetta told the ’60 Minutes’ television program. "He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan, he was not doing anything that would in any way undermine Pakistan... Pakistan and the United States have a common cause against terrorism."
Panetta added: "For them to take this kind of action against someone who was helping to go after terrorism I just think is a real mistake on their part.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.