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Save the Children offices still closed in Pakistan
The authorities sealed Save the Children’s offices last week, saying the charity was “working against the country”, and threatened to expel more foreign aid groups for supposedly undermining Pakistan.
Pakistan has toughened its policies towards international aid groups in recent years, accusing them of covering for spying operations.
Local media reports suggested the interior ministry had suspended its own order to halt the operations of the British-based international charity.
The reports were based on a document circulating on social media which appeared to be a confidential interior ministry memorandum.
But interior ministry officials were unable to confirm the authenticity of the document, which was dated Friday, and Save the Children’s offices in Islamabad remained under lock and key on Monday.
An armed police officer guarding the offices told AFP they were still officially sealed.
Save the Children spokesman Saeed Ahmad said they had received no word from the government about being allowed to resume their activities.
“We have no communication, we have the same information which has been published in today’s newspapers. We welcome these news stories,” Ahmad told AFP.
He said that as of Monday, all the group’s offices in Pakistan were closed and all its activities suspended.
“All the information we are getting is only through media, we don’t have any other information from any other source,” Ahmad said.
He said that before this issue arose, Save the Children had closed its operations in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the southwestern province of Baluchistan.
In 2012 the government expelled the expatriate staff of Save the Children, which has worked in Pakistan for over 35 years and employs 1,200 Pakistanis.
That move came after Pakistani intelligence services accused the charity of links to doctor Shakeel Afridi, whom the CIA allegedly used to carry out a fake vaccination programme as they searched for Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Save the Children has always vehemently denied any link to either Afridi or the CIA.
An intelligence source told AFP that Save the Children had been under close watch since the Afridi episode.
He said it was believed to have been working in areas where it was not authorised to operate, in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan.
The official said five more foreign aid groups were under close watch for alleged “anti-state” activities: Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and Church World Service.
The United States on Friday warned Pakistan it was only hurting itself by its actions against aid groups.