Save the Children foreign staff ordered out of Pakistan
Pakistan as ordered all Save the Children foreign staff to leave the country within four weeks, in the wake of accusations linking the aid agency to a fake vaccination program used in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Save the Children said it had received no explanation for the order, but a Pakistan intelligence report has linked the charity to the Pakistani doctor involved in the fake program as the US searched for the al-Qaida chief.
The aid agency’s six expatriate staff have been asked to leave within four weeks.
“Earlier this week we got a call from special branch instructing us to send back all expatriate staff,” said Save the Children spokesman Ghulam Qadir.
“There were no reasons given. We are working with the government to comply with the instructions.
“We will continue to operate in Pakistan and Save the Children is currently serving more than seven million children with 2000 dedicated national staff.
“Our commitment is that we will continue to carry out our program activities to meet the needs and rights of the children.”
Save the Children denied allegations that it introduced Dr Afridi to the CIA.
“On Shakeel Afridi, our stand is very clear that there is absolutely no truth in it. There is no concrete proof to these allegations,” Mr Qadir said.
No government official was immediately available to comment.
Dr Afridi allegedly worked for the CIA collecting DNA in a bid to verify bin Laden’s presence in the garrison town of Abbottabad, north of Islamabad.
US Navy SEALS killed the al-Qaida leader in a raid on his compound in the town in May 2011.
But Pakistan reacted with fury to the raid, which it branded a violation of sovereignty.
An official report prepared jointly by Pakistan civil and military intelligence blamed a former Save the children director for introducing Dr Afridi to the Americans.
The report, obtained by AFP, said Dr Afridi went to Peshawar in November 2008 to participate in a workshop organised by Save The Children, where he met the charity’s country director, who later invited him to come to Islamabad.
Dr Afridi met him at a book stall in Islamabad and was introduced to a western woman, the report said. The pair met regularly afterwards in various locations in the capital.
In May Dr Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in jail for treason after being convicted over alleged ties to militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, not for working for the CIA, for which the court said it did not have jurisdiction.
The United States was enraged by Dr Afridi’s sentencing and the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to cut aid to Pakistan by a symbolic $US33 million.