Pakistan on Friday sealed the offices of international aid group Save The Children as the government clamped down on what it called entities that were working on an anti-state agenda.
Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali said some international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), backed by the US, Israel and India, have been working against the country’s interests. He promised action against more such entities in the coming days.
Save The Children had been under the scanner ever since it was linked to Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi who is alleged to have contacted the American Central Investigation Agency (CIA) and helped them in tracking down Osama bin Ladin. Afridi, who is now serving time in jail, is believed to have run a fake polio campaign to help track bin Ladin down.
In 2012, the Pakistan government had expelled the charity’s foreign staff.
An official cited action taken against NGOs in India and Bangladesh to illustrate “how governments can act to protect its national interests”.
The interior minister said that authorities had sealed the Islamabad offices of the NGO.
Save The Children said that no notice was issued to it ahead of the action. A staff member told the media that personal possessions of employees were allowed to be taken but all records, documents and equipment including laptops were seized. It also said it had no foreign staff working in Pakistan.
In a statement, the charity said it has been working in Pakistan for over 35 years and had 1,200 staff members. It said “last year, our programs in health, education, food security and livelihoods reached more than 4 million children and their families.”