Pakistani authorities expelled international aid organization Save The Children from the country Thursday, with officials accusing the group of being involved in “anti-Pakistan” activities.
Police arrived at the charity's head office in the capital, Islamabad, on Thursday, sealed the door and posted an eviction notice, which ordered all expatriate staff to depart the country within 15 days. Save The Children had faced increasingly stringent scrutiny from Pakistani authorities in recent years, after the government linked it to Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor contracted by the CIA to carry out an immunization survey in Abbottabad, during the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
The notice, a copy of which was published in the Pakistani media, reportedly said: “The competent authority has been pleased to decide that Save The Children International be asked to windup [sic] its operations in Pakistan forthwith.”
While the Pakistani government made no official statement about the move, an official, who declined to be identified, told Agence France-Presse: “Their activities were being monitored since a long time -- they were doing something which was against Pakistan’s interest.”
Save the Children confirmed that Pakistani police had closed down its office but said the group “was not served any notice.” In a statement, cited by the New York Times, the charity added: “We strongly object to this action and are raising our serious concerns at the highest levels.” The group added that all of its 1,200 employees in the country were Pakistani nationals.
In 2012, the then-director of Save the Children’s Pakistani office was called to testify before a government inquiry into the Afridi case, and several foreign officials of the organization in the country at the time were told their visas would not be renewed, the Washington Post reported.
Expatriate staff had been asked to leave the country previously, in 2012, over what an anonymous Pakistani official termed the “reluctance of Save the Children to cooperate with the Pakistani government" in the Afridi case, CBS News reported. The group denied any links with Afridi's work, saying the doctor had done nothing more than attend training programs it hosted in Pakistan.
Pakistan's move to bar the child-rights group comes soon after the government began cracking down on foreign nonprofits, some of which it suspects of being used as a cover for spying. In April, the government revoked the licenses of 108 nonprofits operating in the country.