ISLAMABAD - The federal government Thursday banned operations of Save the Children in the country and sealed the country office of the NGO in one of the posh sectors of the capital.

The international non-government organisation was under strict scrutiny of the country’s intelligence agencies after the killing of former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in 2011 by US Naval Seals. After bin Laden’s killing, the intelligence agencies were convinced that the aid organisation was used as cover by the US spies hunting the Qaeda chief.

An assistant commissioner of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration along with the local police sealed the country office of Save the Children located on the Margalla Road of Islamabad after the interior ministry issued orders for banning its operations in Pakistan.

A senior officer of interior ministry said that the operations of Save the Children had been banned on the basis of credible intelligence reports and after the approval from the top government level. The intelligence agencies had recently reported to the ministry that the activities of the INGO in some areas of Pakistan were suspicious. Action is also being taken against other offices of the organisation in other parts of the country, the officer said.

It is being alleged that Save the Children had hired Dr Shakeel Afridi, who is currently serving a 33-year jail term, to get blood samples of Osama bin Laden to conduct DNA test. The INGO started facing sanctions in Pakistan when in 2012 the government cancelled its NOC to work in Pakistan and asked its foreign employees to leave the country within a week.

However, interior ministry has been extending interim NOC allowing the INGO to work in Pakistan for a period of four to six months. “Our interim NoC had not been extended after May 15, 2015 as the last one expired on that date,” an employee of Save the Children said wising not to be named. “We have already been asked to arrange alternate jobs as the government had not extended the interim NoC.” He further said that at present no foreigner was working in the organisation and the management had already limited its operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan due to the concern of security agencies.

Efforts were made to contact country director of Save the Children but she could not be contacted. Like Save the Children, a number of other INGOs are under the surveillance of country’ intelligence agencies and the government is contemplating to scrutinise their operations.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had formed a committee under the chair of Special Assistant to PM on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi to give its recommendations on the regulation of international NGOs working in Pakistan. The committee is finalising its recommendations in consultation with all the stakeholders including SECP, representatives of intelligence agencies, State Bank of Pakistan,

Economic Affairs Division and Ministry of Interior. A Select Committee including representatives of interior ministry and other relevant authorities also reviews the cases of INGOs to continue their operations in Pakistan. In this connections, a proposed legislation ‘Foreign Contribution Act 2015’ is also ready to be sent to the federal cabinet for approval and then it would sent to the Parliament for final approval.