Pakistan halts order to shut international charity

Interior ministry confirms move to hold in abeyance earlier order forcing Save the Children to close all its offices.

    Pakistan had sealed the charity's main office in Islamabad on Thursday [Reuters]
    Pakistan had sealed the charity's main office in Islamabad on Thursday [Reuters]

    Pakistan's interior ministry has halted the decision to close the office of international aid group Save the Children in the capital Islamabad, according to local media and an official.

    Pakistan shuttered the group's main office on Thursday for allegedly "violating its charter".

    By Friday, Save the Children had shut all its offices across the country.

    "The undersigned is directed to refer to this ministry’s letter of even number dated 11th June 2015 on the subject noted about. The competent authority has desired that the action on above letter may be held in abeyance till further order," an interior ministry statement was quoted as saying by local media on Sunday.

    A senior interior ministry official, who spoke to the Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity, confirmed the decision, but did not elaborate as he was not authorised to discuss the decision.

    'We have to save our children, don't we?'

    Saeed Ahmed, a spokesman for Save the Children in Pakistan, said they had no word from the government on the decision.

    "We would appreciate relevant government authorities to communicate to us officially," he told AP.

    At the time, Pakistan said it would not allow any non-government organisation to work against its interests, without elaborating. 

    Save the Children said it received no prior warning before its office was closed, pointing out that it has worked in Pakistan for over 35 years and that it has 1,200 employees nationwide, none of them a foreign national.

    The US State Department had expressed concern over the closure.

    Save the Children's Pakistan operations have been under intense scrutiny due to a local belief that the organisation was somehow connected to the May 2, 2011, killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

    A vaccination campaign, run by a Pakistani doctor, was used by the CIA to obtain DNA samples in the city of Abbottabad, where Obsama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda chief, had been hiding in a secured compound.

    A Save the Children employee in Islamabad has told the AP that the doctor, Shakil Afridi, had twice attended training workshops organised by the group in 2009 and 2010 to train Pakistani doctors about the healthcare needs of children and mothers.

    The employee described Afridi as merely one of "more than 1,000 doctors" who took part. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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