Fears that a fake CIA vaccination scheme created to hunt Osama bin Laden has compromised the operations of aid agencies in Pakistan have intensified after it emerged that a major NGO was forced to evacuate its staff following warnings about their security.
Save the Children flew eight expatriate aid workers out of Pakistan in late July after receiving a warning from US officials at the Peshawar consulate.
Western and Pakistani officials say there were fears that Save the Children staff could be picked up by Inter-Services Intelligence over alleged links to Dr Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor at the heart of the covert CIA vaccination scheme that helped locate Bin Laden.
Save the Children vehemently denies any links to the CIA scheme, which the Guardian first reported in July, and said it was the victim of a broader crackdown on aid agencies in Pakistan caused by CIA tactics.
Furious aid workers say the CIA’s reckless use of aid work as a cover by spy agencies has threatened the safety of genuine aid workers and endangered multimillion-pound programmes to help Pakistan’s poor.
In July the departing director of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Pascal Cuttat, said Pakistan was becoming increasingly difficult to work in.
“We are consistently facing suspicion of any foreigner working in the country,” he told a press conference in Geneva.