Aid group Save the Children closes all its Pakistan offices
ISLAMABAD (AP) — The international aid group Save the Children has shut down all its offices in Pakistan after the government shuttered its main office in the capital, a local worker said Saturday, amid fears among other organizations whether the government could target them next.
The worker said that the group “voluntarily” closed its offices Friday in the northwestern city of Peshawar, the southern city of Karachi, the eastern city of Lahore and the southwestern city of Quetta.
He spoke on condition of anonymity as the group hadn’t authorized him to speak publicly.
The move came after Pakistan’s government on Thursday shut the group’s main office in Islamabad for allegedly violating its charter. The decision drew international criticism, but Pakistan says it will not allow any non-government organization to work against its interests.
The group said Friday it was not served any notice in advance about closing its Islamabad office, adding it had worked in Pakistan for over 35 years and that currently it had 1,200 employees nationwide — none of them a foreign national.
The U.S. State Department has expressed concern over the crackdown on the group.
While the government did not elaborate on its decision, 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.
Meanwhile Saturday, Pakistan’s military said airstrikes killed 20 suspected militants in its North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border. In a statement, it said the strikes targeted the tribal region’s Datta Khel area. The military gave no other details and the information could not be corroborated as journalists are barred from the country’s tribal areas.