ISLAMABAD: Following attempts to shut down an international non-governmental organisation (INGO), the federal government has ordered three Filipino missionary workers, including the principals of the Islamabad Convent Schools, to leave the country within two weeks.
On June 11, the government ordered the closure of INGO Save The Children, but the order was suspended the following day.
On Wednesday, the administration of the Islamabad Convent Schools in sectors F-8 and H-8 were handed letters intimating the cancellation of visas for three Philippine missionary workers.
The three are Ms Miraflor Aclan Bahan, principal of the F-8 branch, Delia Coyoca Rubio, the principal of the H-8 branch, and Elizabeth Umail Siguenza, the finance officer at the H-8 branch.
A copy of the letter, seen by Dawn, states that “as the current position of the following Philippines missionary workers involve employment and constitutes change in category of visa, hence it had been decided to cancel their visa”.
It goes on to say: “It is requested that their visas may please be cancelled and foreigners may be directed to leave the country within 15 days.”
The directives of the federal government were passed to the director general of immigration and passports by a section officer of the interior ministry.
The same office had extended the visas for all three missionaries for a period of two years, just last month.
The move comes after allegations of sexual assault on a six-year-old boy were leveled at a peon who worked at the F-8 branch of the convent school.
On June 9, an FIR was lodged on the complaint of the child’s father at Margalla police station. Police registered the case under sections 377 (unnatural offences) and 511 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
The school administration had, after an internal inquiry, handed the accused man over to the police. The matter is currently pending adjudication before a judicial magistrate.
Despite repeated attempts, Waqar Chohan, the interior ministry officer authorised to speak to the media, could not be contacted. Another officer from the interior ministry, however, said that this was a “very simple case”.
He said that according to the terms and conditions of a ‘missionary’ visa, the missionaries could not take on any other assignment or engage in employment.
“Since they (the missionary workers) had violated the terms of their visa, the federal government issued directions to expel them,” he added.
Commenting on the expulsion order, Rana Abid Nazir, the schools’ legal adviser, said they were going to challenge these directions as they are ‘arbitrary’ and were issued without hearing out his clients.
He claimed that before canceling the visa, the concerned authorities should have contacted the bishop over the matter of the missionaries’ employment status.
According to Mr Nazir, the practice of engaging missionary workers in the convent schools had existed since 1992 and the government had never objected in the past.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2015