The Islamabad, Pakistan office for Save The Children was closed and sealed without notice on Thursday by Pakistani authorities, according to the charity.
The Fairfield, Conn.-based organization has worked in Pakistan for more than 35 years, with 1,200 staff members currently working around the country, all of whom are Pakistani. “We strongly object to this action and are raising our serious concerns at the highest levels,” the organization said in a statement.
Save the Children programs in health, education, food security and livelihoods reached more than 4 million children and their families last year, according to the charity. “All our work is designed and delivered in close collaboration with the government ministries across the country, and aims to strengthen public service delivery systems in health, nutrition, education and child welfare.”
In a statement issued on Friday, the U.S. State Department raised concerns about “about Pakistan’s crackdown on international charitable organizations and other NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). Save the Children is one of many such organizations that has long operated with transparency and in close coordination with the government of Pakistan.”
The State Department said that several partners recently have reported difficulty doing business in Pakistan, having a significant negative impact on international partner efforts to support the government’s priorities. “We share the government of Pakistan’s goal of promoting a secure, economically vibrant, democratic Pakistan. Much of our support for that goal involves channeling financial support through international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), who work as our implementing partners in a variety of sectors,” the State Department said.
The U.S. urged Pakistan’s government to standardize and streamline a transparent process that will allow INGOs like Save the Children to work legally in the country. “Pakistan’s international development partners respect the government’s need for full transparency from INGOs involving their activities within the country. We also agree INGOs must operate within a relevant legal and regulatory framework. INGOs are an important part of the international development community’s effort to support Pakistan in facilitating effective and meaningful development, governance, and humanitarian assistance to benefit the people of Pakistan.”