NGO ‘Save the Children’ banned in Pakistan

Islamabad, June 12 (IANS) Pakistani authorities have banned the operations of international aid group “Save the Children” in the country and sealed the office of the NGO located in Islamabad, media reported on Friday.

According to the authorities, the international NGO was under strict scrutiny of the country’s intelligence agencies after the killing of former Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in 2011 by US Navy Seals, The Nation daily reported.

After bin Laden’s killing, the intelligence agencies were convinced that the aid organisation was used as a cover by the US spies hunting the Al Qaeda chief.

An assistant commissioner of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration, along with the local police, sealed the country office of “Save the Children” located on Margalla Road of Islamabad after the interior ministry issued orders for stopping its operations in Pakistan.

A senior interior ministry official said the NGO’s operations were banned on the basis of credible intelligence reports and after approval from the top levels of government.

The intelligence agencies had recently reported to the ministry that the activities of the NGO in some areas of Pakistan were suspicious. Action is also being taken against other offices of the organisation in other parts of the country, the officer said.

It is being alleged that it had hired Shakeel Afridi, who is currently serving a 33-year jail term, to get blood samples of Osama bin Laden to conduct DNA tests.

The NGO started facing sanctions in Pakistan when in 2012 the government cancelled its no objection certificate (NOC) to work in Pakistan and asked its foreign employees to leave the country within a week.

However, the interior ministry has been extending interim NOCs allowing the NGO to work in Pakistan for a period of four to six months.

“Our interim NoC had not been extended after May 15, 2015 as the last one expired on that date,” an employee of “Save the Children” said, adding, “We have already been asked to arrange alternate jobs as the government had not extended the interim NoC.”

He further said that at present no foreigner was working in the organisation and the management had already limited its operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan due to the concerns of security agencies.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had formed a committee under Special Assistant to Premier on Foreign Affairs, Tariq Fatemi, to give its recommendations on the regulation of international NGOs working in Pakistan.

The committee is finalising its recommendations in consultation with all the stakeholders, representatives of intelligence agencies, State Bank of Pakistan, Economic Affairs Division and interior ministry.

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