The Pakistani government shut down the offices of the international aid group Save the Children in the capital, Islamabad, without giving any reason, officials and the aid group said on Friday. The officials also told Pakistani employees that the government wanted all foreign nationals working with the charity to leave the country within 15 days. Two government officials said the action was taken on orders from the Ministry of Interior. The spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Qazi Khalilullah, refused to comment and referred all questions on the issue to the Ministry of Interior.
In a statement released to the media on Friday, Save the Children confirmed that its office in Islamabad had been closed by the government. "Save the Children was not served any notice to this effect. We strongly object to this action and are raising our serious concerns at the highest levels," it said, added that the group has worked in Pakistan for over 35 years and that currently it had 1,200 employees nationwide none of them a foreign national.
Last year, the group's programs in health, education and food security reached more than 4 million children and their families, it said. Save the Children has previously been accused by Pakistani intelligence agencies of facilitating a Pakistani doctor's vaccinations program in the city of Abbottabad as cover for the CIA to obtain DNA samples at a compound where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was later killed by U.S. commandos.