Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The Pakistani government has ordered to Save the Children to suspend all activities in the country, because the association "works against the good of the country".
Accompanied by police, yesterday afternoon government officials sealed the NGOs offices of in Islamabad and notified the foreign staff to leave the country within 15 days. According to a spokesman for Save the Children, the government conducted the operation without notice. However Amjad Gulzar, national executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan, told AsiaNews: "The order is only temporary. I know from some of my friends, who work at Save the Children, who are in negotiations with the government, so the decision could change. "
"For many months now- the activist tells AsiaNews - the government has been investigating the activities of national and foreign NGOs operating in Pakistan. There are at least 25 organizations that have been checked, and now the government will have to decide if they can continue to operate in the country or not. "
The authorities, continues Gulzar, "want to understand which of these organizations work for the sake of Pakistan and its people, or undermine the independence of the country. As a Pakistani and as a member of the Caritas network, I can say that it is a review process that rests with the government and that we must respect. "
In 2012 a report of the Pakistani intelligence linked Save the Children to Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi, who the CIA used to implement a fake vaccination program to track al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The foreign staff was forced to leave the country, where 1,200 Pakistanis now operate in projects relating to health, education and food. The NGO has always denied the charge.
Since then, Islamabad has hardened its policies towards NGOs, especially the international ones.
Caritas Pakistan has also suffered inspections, the Executive Secretary told AsiaNews: "In the past months some government representatives have visited our offices and checked our activity, but we're okay. We have no problem with the authorities, we are present for 50 years and we contribute as part of a Catholic network. We have good working relationships with the government, at the district, provincial and state level".