Save The Children Staff Ordered Out Of Pakistan
Islamabad: Islamabad has ordered six foreigners working with the local Save the Children to leave the country.
The group has recently come under Pakistani government scrutiny because of reports that it helped facilitate meetings between the US and Shakir Afridi, a doctor who allegedly helped hunt down Osama bin Laden, a charge which the group has vehemently denied. Arrested and charged, Afridi was later sentenced to 33 years in prison for high treason. The expulsion order comes among heightened suspicion of foreigners in Pakistan in the aftermath of the al-Qaida leader’s killing.
Ghulam Qadri said the Ministry of Interior informed the organization earlier this week that its six foreign staffers would have to leave the country within two weeks, although they have since been able to extend the deadline.
Save the Children has about 2,000 Pakistani employees across the country, who will continue to work despite the expulsion.
He said the ministry gave no reason for the expulsion: “We are working with the government to find out the details for this action.”
In the wake of Afridi’s arrest Pakistani officials have become increasingly suspicious of groups with international ties, and many aid groups have reported that it is becoming more difficult to obtain visas.
A lawyer for the doctor, Samiullah Khan, said Pakistani investigators in a report concluded that Afridi met with some foreigners in connection with the vaccination drive, including someone from Save the Children in Islamabad. Khan says his client denies the charges and that he is innocent.
Qadri said there’s no evidence suggesting that it worked with Afridi and that the aid group has already given the government all the information it has asked for as part of its investigation.
Qadri said he expects that the foreign staffers will have to leave but said they may be able to return at a future date.
The expulsion was first reported by the British newspaper The Guardian.
Save the Children is an international aid group with operations in more than 50 countries around the world that aims to improve the lives of children. The group has been working in Pakistan since 1979, according to its website. Recently it has been helping some of the roughly 250,000 people who have fled fighting in Pakistan’s Khyber agency, a tribal area that borders Afghanistan.
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