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Interior Ministry suspends order to close 'Save the Children'

Updated June 14, 2015

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Save the Children's office was sealed on June 11. ─ AFP/File
Save the Children's office was sealed on June 11. ─ AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Interior has suspended its own orders to shut down international aid organisation Save the Children's operations in Pakistan.

A confidential memo dated June 12 says, "The competent authority has desired that action on above letter [to seal the charity] may be held in abeyance till further orders."

A copy of the government's order to seal 'Save the Children'. ─ DawnNews
A copy of the government's order to seal 'Save the Children'. ─ DawnNews

Authorities on June 11 ordered the international non-government organisation (INGO) Save the Children to leave the country saying the charity was “working against the country”, police and government officials said.

Government administration officials accompanied by police arrived at the charity's office in the heart of Islamabad after working hours and placed a lock on the door and a notice saying the building had been sealed.

“We have sealed the office of Save the Children on government instructions,” Kamran Cheema, a senior government official told AFP.

Read more: 'Save the Children' ordered to leave Pakistan: officials

“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 government did not make any formal announcement but an official from the interior ministry said that the agency was involved in “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.

In 2012, a Pakistan intelligence report had linked the aid group to Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi, who the CIA allegedly used to carry out a fake vaccination programme as they searched for Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

The charity's expat staff were forced to leave Pakistan after the accusations emerged.

Save the Children has always denied it had any links with Afridi or the CIA.

The US State Department expressed concern over the closure.

Read more: Humiliation, uncertainty plague staff of banned INGOs

In a June 12 press conference, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said that no Non-Government Organisation (NGO) working against the country's national interest would be allowed to continue its work in Pakistan.

He said that some NGOs were performing out of their respective domains and they should be probed. "We formulated a plan last year to regulate the functioning of NGOs in the country."

The interior minister added that they had been receiving intelligence reports for many years but no action was being taken. NGOs, whose numbers run into hundreds, have been operating without any code of conduct, law and agenda, he said.

"We don’t want to put ban on any NGO but we want to compel them to work under their charter,” Khan said.

Read more: Pakistan will not allow NGOs working against national interest: Nisar