Pakistani authorities told the international aid group Save the Children on Thursday to leave the country within 15 days, accusing the charity of “anti-Pakistan activities.”
Overnight, Pakistani police sealed off the group’s offices in Islamabad, the country’s capital, by locking the compound’s gate, The Guardian reported. A government official then left a statement ordering the group’s foreign staff to return to their countries.
A senior Pakistani government official told AFP that Save the Children was working “against Pakistan’s interest.”
“There were some intelligence reports suggesting some of the international NGOs funded by U.S., Israel and India were involved in working on an anti-Pakistan agenda,” Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar elaborated at a news conference Friday.
The Guardian reported that Nisar also singled out foreign rights activists who have actively campaigned against the country’s use of the death penalty.
In 2012, Pakistan intelligence linked the group to Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Save the Children has routinely denied involvement with the CIA.
The Washington Post’s Pamela Constable told the NewsHour then that Afridi had attended some of the group’s training courses.
“[Save the Children] are everywhere. They’re all over the country, very well known, and provided all sorts of training programs for people like [Afridi],” Constable said. “So, he was definitely familiar with and had been invited to participate, but everyone at the organization certainly is saying that they had nothing to do with the actions he took.”
“We strongly object to this action and are raising our serious concerns at the highest levels,” the charity said in an online statement Thursday.
“Save the Children does not have any expatriate staff working in Pakistan, all our staff are Pakistani,” the statement read, adding that the group has worked in the country for more than 35 years with a current staff of more than 1,200 staff members.
The group also said it did not see any governmental notice of the closure. The Express Tribune presumably obtained a copy of the order.