Pakistan halts ordered closure of Save the Children office

AP News
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Posted: Jun 14, 2015 3:01 PM
Pakistan halts ordered closure of Save the Children office

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's Interior Ministry has halted an order it made closing the office of the international aid group Save the Children in Islamabad, an official said Sunday.

The senior Interior Ministry official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to discuss the decision, did not elaborate.

Saeed Ahmed, a spokesman for Save the Children in Pakistan, said they had no word from the government on the decision.

"We would appreciate relevant government authorities to communicate to us officially," Ahmed told the AP.

On Thursday, Pakistan shuttered the group's main office in the capital for allegedly "violating its charter." By Friday, the organization had shut all its offices across the country.

At the time, Pakistan said it would not allow any non-government organization to work against its interests, without elaborating. The group has said it received no prior warning before its office was closed, saying it had worked in Pakistan for over 35 years and that it had 1,200 employees nationwide — none of them a foreign national.

The U.S. State Department has expressed concern over the closure.

Save the Children's Pakistan operations have been under intense scrutiny due to a local belief that the organization was somehow connected to the May 2, 2011, killing of al-Qaida 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.

A Save the Children employee in Islamabad has told the AP that the doctor, Shakil Afridi, had twice attended training workshops organized by the group in 2009 and 2010 to train Pakistani doctors about the health care needs of children and mothers. The employee described Afridi as merely one of "more than 1,000 doctors" who took part. The employee spoke at the time on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to talk to journalists.