The Pakistani government ordered the Save the Children NGO to leave the country in 15 days. Officials claim the group participated in “anti state” activities. “Save the Children was not served any notice to this effect,” stated the organization. “We strongly object to this action and are raising our serious concerns at the highest levels.”
Authorities closed down the offices in Islamabad. However, Save the Children no longer employs any foreign workers in Pakistan after the government targeted them in 2012. They only employ a staff of 1,200 Pakistanis in the country.
“Local NGOs that use foreign help and foreign funding to implement a foreign agenda in Pakistan should be scared,” exclaimed Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali. “We will not allow them to work here whatever connections they enjoy, regardless of the outcry.”
In 2012, anonymous sources told the BBC that officials targeted the group due to the “fall-out from the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden.” Authorities arrested Dr. Shakil Afridi when they found out he ran “a fake vaccination programme on behalf of the CIA” to track down bin Laden. The government linked him to the charity because he merely chatted with the staff, but never received a paycheck or allowed the people to use his vaccinations.
Save the Children said the government already halted numerous shipments, “blocking aid to millions of children and their families.” Human rights activists claim the country want to keep NGOs at a distance.
“The government and the army don’t trust the civil society,” an anonymous source told Deutsche Welle. “Human rights violations are rampant in many parts of the country, and the authorities want to conceal them. That is why they are not only muzzling freedom of press but also other social freedoms. We should look at Save the Children closure from this perspective.”
Others think the government should look inside before they accuse anyone else of “shady” activities.
“Which is a shadier organization than the ISI [Pakistan’s intelligence organization]?” asked journalist Abdul Agha. “What is happening in Balochistan and in the northwestern areas of the country in the name of battle against extremists is not only shady but also dangerous. The army and its agencies are not accountable to anyone.”
Pakistan listed more NGOs to kick out of the country, but did not mention any names.
“The civil society is determined to expose human rights violations by the state, and it is not acceptable in Pakistan,” continued Agha. “The authorities will do their best to silence dissent.”