ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government shut down the offices of the international aid group Save the Children in the capital, Islamabad, for violating its charter, the country’s interior minister and officials said on Friday.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the government was ready to throw out more foreign aid groups for “working against the country.”
“No NGO will be allowed to work against the interest of Pakistan,” he told reporters.
Pakistani officials placed a lock on the gate of the group’s offices Thursday night and asked employees to leave.
The officials also told Pakistani employees that the government wanted all foreign nationals working with the charity to leave the country within 15 days. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Nisar said Parliament was debating whether to expose what he said were the “many” foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) bent on undermining Pakistan.
“We strongly object to this action and are raising our serious concerns at the highest levels,” Save the Children said in a statement. “All our work is designed and delivered in close collaboration with the government ministries across the country and aims to strengthen public service delivery systems in health, nutrition, education and child welfare.”
Pakistan has toughened its policies toward international aid groups in recent years, accusing them of being covers for spying operations and has repeatedly warned them to restrict their activities, vowing stern action for any “suspicious” activity.
“Many NGOs are working against Pakistan and we are deliberating on exposing them in the Parliament,” Nisar told reporters on Friday.
Save the Children’s Pakistan operations have been under intense government scrutiny due to a local belief that the organization 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 bin Laden had been hiding in a secured compound.