ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's government announced Tuesday that international aid groups can operate for another six months provided they register with officials in three months' time, a relief for humanitarian groups worried since authorities suddenly shut the offices of Save the Children.
Though Pakistan's Interior Ministry later reversed the order closing the charity last week, also without explanation, other groups feared being targeted.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Nawz Sharif met with senior government officials to discuss how Pakistan will interact with aid groups in the future. The meeting ended with officials announcing that such groups now must register with the government and receive official approval to operate in Pakistan.
Authorities did not elaborate on why the government suddenly wants such groups to register, nor did it lay out those procedures.
Saeed Ahmed, a spokesman for Save the Children in Pakistan, welcomed the government announcement, though he noted officials have not officially said the group can reopen its offices.
"We will complete the paperwork to fulfill the government requirements to keep functioning" in Pakistan, he said.
Save the Children has been under intense scrutiny in Pakistan due to a local suspicions the organization was connected to the May 2011 killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The CIA used a vaccination campaign run by a Pakistani doctor to obtain DNA samples in Abbottabad, where bin Laden had been hiding.
On Tuesday, Ahmed denied any link to the doctor involved in the CIA operation. Earlier, the group acknowledged the doctor had twice attended training workshops attended by more than a thousand others organized by the group in 2009 and 2010 on the health care needs of children and mothers.
"We want to make it clear that Save the Children is against the use of humanitarian organizations for espionage or any illegal activity," Ahmed said. "We are against the use of (aid groups) against the interests of Pakistan."