Pakistan suspends move to shut down foreign charity, says leaked letter

Reuters , Sunday 14 Jun 2015

Pakistan's government has suspended an order to shut down the offices of Save the Children, a government letter leaked on Sunday said, after international donors raised concerns over the interior minister's pledge to clamp down on aid organisations.

Pakistani police padlocked the offices of international aid group Save the Children on Thursday evening. The following day, the interior minister accused some charities of breaking Pakistani laws and said they would be shut down.

He did not specify which groups or laws he was referring to.

The promised crackdown led to a rare public rebuke to Pakistan by the U.S. State Department and underlined the difficulties many foreigners face while working in Pakistan, a nation of 180 million people plagued by poverty and militancy.

Diplomats and foreign aid workers face severe restrictions on movement and are sometimes accused of using their work as a cover for espionage.

Save the Children said it had received no official communication over the decision to shut the charity's offices or whether the decision was subsequently reversed.

"Save the Children is not officially aware of any such communication (regarding) re-opening of its offices in Pakistan," a spokesman in Pakistan said in a statement Sunday.

The government letter, seen by Reuters, dated June 12 and marked "confidential", offered scant detail.

"The action on above letter may be held in abeyance until further orders," it read, referring to a previous letter saying Save the Children's offices should be shut.

Save the Children has worked in Pakistan for over 35 years. In 2011, it was linked to a Pakistani doctor recruited by the CIA to help in the hunt that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Save the Children's foreign staff were expelled from Pakistan soon after the accusations surfaced, but more than 1,000 local staff continued to operate. The charity has always denied any link to the doctor or the CIA.

Short link: