Pakistan Shuts Down Save the Children After Chagai Report

June 12, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016
Children born in Chagai since the May 28, 1998 nuclear tests suffer from different skin cancers.
Children born in Chagai since the May 28, 1998 nuclear tests suffer from different skin cancers.

Pakistan Thursday shut down the offices of Save the Children after it published reports of the pathetic conditions of children in Balochistan, according to Baloch media sources.

A few days ago a Dawn newspaper’s online Urdu edition published a report of Save The Children about the child mortality rate in Chagai, Balochistan, where Pakistan conducted five underground nuclear tests on May 28, 1998, against Baloch wishes. However, the report was removed from the web site a few hours after its publications.

Pakistan said the organization was registered for Islamabad and had no business going to Quetta, capital of Balochistan, according to the Baloch media sources. It was clear Islamabad suspected the US-based organization of being a front office of the Central Intelligence Agency. BBC English quoted home minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who is widely believed to have close family members in the army hierarchy as saying the NGO was operating beyond its remit with backing from US, Israel and India.

BBC English quoted home minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who has close family members working in the army hierarchy, as saying the NGO was operating beyond its remit with backing from US, Israel and India

“Local NGOs that use foreign help and foreign funding to implement a foreign agenda in Pakistan should be scared. We will not allow them to work here whatever connections they enjoy, regardless of the outcry,” BBC English quoted him as saying in a live television broadcast.  

“Let me clarify: offices of any international NGO found doing anti-Pakistan activities would be shut down,” The Guardian cited Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan as saying. Pakistan had always suspected Save the Children played a key role in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice on May 2, 2011. 

According to The Guardian, in 2012 Islamabad gave foreign staff working for Save the Children just a week to leave the country after the country’s top spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), linked it to a bogus hepatitis B vaccination program conducted in Abbottabad by a doctor called Shakil Afridi. A leaked version of the official inquiry into the Bin Laden affair revealed Afridi told investigators a senior Save the Children official introduced him to female CIA officers, with whom he held secretive meetings in warehouses.

Save the Children strongly objected to Islamabad’s decision. In a statement Friday morning, the NGO said on Thursday its office in Islamabad, Pakistan, had been closed and sealed off by the Pakistani authorities. “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,” the charity said..

Save the Children said it has worked in Pakistan for more than 35 years and currently had 1,200 staff members working across the nation. “Save the Children does not have any expatriate staff working in Pakistan, all our staff are Pakistani,” the organization said

The charity said it programs in health, education, food security and livelihoods reached more than four million children and their families in Pakistan. It said the organization’s 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.

Pakistan has not allowed the US to open any mission in Quetta on the grounds that it cannot provide security to the Americans, but is working with China to build the so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor to connect Gwadar with Kashgar and has announced setting up a new battalion of 12,000 fighting men, under a major general, to protect the Chinese interests.

At the same time, Pakistan does not even allow foreign NGOs to venture into Balochistan out of fears their officials may be agents of foreign secret services. After two devastating earthquakes, one of them measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale, struck Balochistan in fall, 2013 Pakistani generals did not allow even Doctors Without Borders to go help with the relief works, but instead sent Pakistani troops to crush the freedom fighters demanding freedom.

Child mortality in Balochistan was more than 50 percent higher than the rest of the country: out of 1,000 child births, a total of 158 children die during birth as compared to 103 in other parts of Pakistan.
— Dr Nasir Ali Bugti, Provincial Coordinator Nutrition Program

Balochistan has some of the world’s worst social indicators, comparable to poorest African nations. Dawn newspaper cited Dr. Ali Nasir Bugti, Provincial Coordinator Nutrition Program, as saying child mortality in Balochistan was more than 50 percent higher than rest of the country: out of 1,000, a total of 158 children die during birth as compared to 103 in other parts of Pakistan. Dr. Bugti added maternal mortality rate in Balochistan was nearly three times higher than Pakistan’s national average: a total of 785 mothers lose their lives during pregnancy in Balochistan out of 100,000 as compared to 272 in the rest of the country.

Dawn report said according to National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2011, conducted by Aga Khan University, the nutrition problem in Balochistan appears to be alarming when compared to the rest of the country.  Chronic malnutrition affects 52.2 percent and maternal anemia is 47.3 per cent. “We are in a state of emergency when it comes to malnutrition among women and children,” Dr. Bugti lamented.

Since Pakistan has been accused by many in the West of playing double games, Islamabad comes down heavily on foreign NGOs out of fear truths like its army high command was hiding bin Laden may be exposed that could jeopardize the country’s “security interests.” Chagai is deemed even more sensitive since Pakistan did not allow any environmental impact assessment at the time of the nuclear tests 17 years ago at the Raskoh Mountains. There are reports children are born with different kinds of cancer in Chagai, close to both Iran and Afghanistan.