ISLAMABAD: Although the Ministry of Interior has “held in abeyance” its letter ordering the international non-government organi­sation (INGO) Save the Children (StC) to close down its operations, confusion still prevails over whether the organisation will be allowed to resume its operations.

However, while welcoming the ministry’s decision to reconsider their stance towards StC, the organisation itself says it will not resume operations until the situation becomes clear, adding that its 1,200 regular employees as well as the 600 daily wagers will remain on standby until further notice.

Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, the official spokesperson for the government, however, seemed unaware of the situation.

“I can only speak on the matter after being briefed by the interior ministry,” the minister said when asked to comment on the change in StC’s status.

After the government introduced new regulations for the INGOs’ registration in November 2013, as many as 150 INGOs had applied for registration, of which 19 were registered and five were refused registration. Officials said the rest had obtained interim permission as a number of clearance certificates that were required for INGO registration were still missing from their applications.

The StC last got interim permission to continue its activities in December 2014. This expired on May 15.

A senior official from the interior ministry, requesting anonymity, said that after the notification ordering the closure of StC’s offices was issued, “another notification has been issued, saying that the previous order is held in abeyance. But this does not mean that INGO has been fully allowed to resume its all operations. As long as it is not registered with the EAD, a sword will be dangling over it continuously,” he said.

“However, a meeting will be held this week, where the finance ministry, foreign office, intelligence agencies and other departments will participate to consider extending interim permission to them,” he said.

A spokesperson for StC Pakistan told Dawn said that the INGO was not officially aware of any communication about the reopening of its offices. “We were not informed about the initial closure, nor have we been told about a subsequent notification. We would appreciate if the authorities officially communicated with us,” the spokesperson said.

Reuters adds: Police padlocked the StC’s offices on Thursday evening.

The organisation has worked in the country for over 35 years. In 2011, it was linked to a doctor recruited by the CIA to help in the hunt that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2015

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