Pakistan has shut down the offices of the international aid agency Save The Children across the country, accusing the charity of “anti-Pakistan activities.”
Officials sealed off the compound of the charity in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad after giving notice without clarifying what kind of "anti-state" activities were allegedly committed by the group.
Pakistan wants the aid group's foreign workers to leave the country in two weeks.
An official from the Save The Children, Kamran Cheema, told AFP “we were sent a three-line notification by the interior ministry saying that this office should be sealed and all the expatriate staff be sent back to their countries within 15 days.”
While the Pakistani authorities have made no official statement, sources in Islamabad say the issue is related to CIA-backed anti-polio campaign in the country launched by doctor Shakil Afridi who helped the US intelligence services to locate the al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
The campaign was used as cover for a secret operation to track down bin Laden, who was killed by US soldiers in May 2001 in Pakistan. Afridi has been jailed for 33 years for his involvement in the sting operation.
Pakistani officials have said Save the Children was placed on a watch list following the incident, after Islamabad learned that the NGO had paid nearly $13,000 to Afridi for the campaign. Pakistani intelligence also accused a former Save the Children director of introducing Afridi to the Americans. The aid group denies these accusations.
The CIA-backed vaccine cover operation has been used as an excuse by the Taliban to target anti-polio vaccinations, endangering the lives of thousands of children in a country where polio is endemic. More than 80 percent of all polio infections in the world occur in Pakistan.