Why ‘Save the Children’ can’t save themselves

Published: September 14, 2012

The Pakistani government was ‘convinced’ that the NGO was somehow involved with the CIA because of its interaction with Dr Shakil Afridi. PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan’s threat to expel foreign staff of the US charity ‘Save the Children’ is being condemned worldwide. However, the reputation of the organisation has already been tainted, despite several people calling the government’s move an “overreaction”:


@shehryar_taseer ‘Save the Children’ were in no way involved with Abbottabad — I repeat, no way. A very sad and misguided over-reaction.

Although the government most recently said it has suspended the order to cancel the visas of the foreign staff, a part of Pakistani public opinion needs only enough information so as to support a particular conspiracy theory for even journalists to indiscriminately begin calling them facts.

However, as far as the NGO goes, there are several issues that need to be discussed about the government’s reaction.

First, the Guardian reported that the Pakistan government was ‘convinced’ that the NGO was somehow involved with the CIA because of its interaction with Dr Shakil Afridi, and claimed that it was upon his work with ‘Save the Children’ that he first came into contact with CIA agents.

We do not know what proof exactly ‘convinced’ the government. Although not known for its transparency, no further details were available from the government neither were any officials were available for comment. And since no evidence has been provided, till the writing of this story, we are forced to assume that the governments statements are just allegations.

However, if the allegations prove true, the decision no longer becomes an overreaction.

Two types of proof are being considered here.

First is the evidence of documents, video or witnesses confirming that an incident did take place. The second type of proof, that supporters of Dr Afridi are using, is the lack of any such documents, videos or witnesses to record that the incident (the introduction of Dr Afridi to the CIA) took place. Most people we have seen defending Dr Afridi and ‘Save the Children’ are using the second line of reasoning to say that he is innocent and the meeting with the CIA did not happen. This is why many people remain unconvinced, despite statements otherwise from people in high positions that have never really given this hapless country reassurance in the first place.

This eventually proves to be highly demanding, because if an event did not take place, how can one show proof to confirm it?

The accusations circulating in the international media have already created different opinions in public dialogue. For a country well-known for indulging in conspiracy theories, this does not bode well for ‘Save the Children‘.

One of the greater questions being raised is who will now carry out the work of the foreign staff?

Many fear that the work of the NGO will be affected. While this may be true to an extent, it is doubtful that the children it saves will be affected. The 2,000 Pakistani employees of the NGO are still allowed to work in the country. As far as operational procedures are concerned, it perhaps is not the worst news that the NGO has received. If proper mechanisms are in place, it should still be able to conduct daily operations without the six foreign staff.

In the midst of the accusations, we should not undermine the work that the NGO has done in Pakistan. Even if the allegations are proven true, it is highly unlikely that the lowest level staff of the NGO had anything to do with the Abbottabad operation. This may not be a case of all publicity being good publicity.

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Myra Khan

Myra Khan

A former sub-editor on the Peshawar desk at The Express Tribune. She tweets @myrakhan

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • shaukat saeed

    Who ever saved them before save the children came alongRecommend

  • Tariq Mehmood

    I would say we need to show more patriotism, and if we don’t show it now, Pakistan will not be in the need of it later. Haven’t we paid enough for being neutral Pakistanis. I am not convinced that Dr afridi is guilty but I am not convinced of his innocence either. I have seen all the NGOs very closely, if they get serious in doing what they claim to do, the world should have become a heaven

  • Akhtar

    Myra Khan,please do not worry about our children…They are not savior of our children rather they are spoiler of our children…”Yahud par Nasara kabhi aapkay dost nahien ho saktay”
    We do not need any foreigners in any of the NGO in Pakistan..The international NGOs have spoiled the very basic culture of our society…Recommend

  • Hasan

    losing 5 foreign staff doesn’t mean the entire Save the Children organisation is evicted. Recommend

  • Rehman

    Yes look for the help from outside, dont do anything by yourself. Oh my GOD what happened to “KHUDI” of Alama Iqbal! Recommend

  • Saif Khan

    Dear Myra Khan: Do you know how many children were saved by “Save the Children”? Can give any evidence? No One as for as I know.
    The funds come to Pakistan from these NGOs on the name of Children but what they do with these funds, you will only know if you come and join us in the NGO sector. A lot of corruption and misuse of funds. The US Charity is only used for their own hidden agenda.
    US NGOs is not giving funds directly to NGOs or give aid to Pakistani organizations. In fact USAID funds for Pakistan have been given to US NGOs or consulting firms such as JIPPL, Abt Associates who have charged exorbitant amounts from the funds intended for the NGOs. For example, an (American) manger of the consulting firm in this case was paid 20 lacs per month (for funds earmarked for the NGO). The JIPPEL Manager along with his team was supposed to “build the capacity” of that NGO. After two years and 7million US dollars later the output was one SOP…… and these experts were appointed by USAID! There are other such examples.
    Even during the tenders only the US firms are selected. for example during the flood one such example is the awarding of tender for NFIs (Non-Food Items) to the Green Star which has nothing to do with the provision of NFIs but the only reason for selection is that it was a US firm.
    So the only reason is to show that they are sending money to Pakistan for some good activities but with their cunning planning they are sending back this money by appointing their own citizens (who are most probably CIA guys), awarding sub-contract to US firms and consultants. Recommend

  • Myra

    I feel like no one has actually read the blog… it is actually about who will ‘save’ Save the ChildrenRecommend

  • MonsieurCritique

    They look at the title and they post their prejudices.Recommend

  • Adnan

    hahahahaha… after DR. Afridi’s interview published worldwide, you still have doubts that he is involved or not? Although his interview is against Pakistan but still its a slap on the face of the people who thinks Afridi is not involved with CIA. So Miss Myra update yourself before writing Recommend

  • Saif Khan

    @MonsieurCritique:, @Myra:
    I have read the blog. My comments are related to the operations of these US funded NGOs/Donors who are working on the name of relief and development. Recommend

  • Shadytr33

    Myra, your blog is not regarding who will save, save the children. Its certainly about saving the children. With proper local management, the organization can run fine fine since the order to expel the foreign staff is for only six, unless you think the 2000 local staff is incapable of doing what 6 foreign people can do. Recommend

  • Imran Con

    Good intentions they may have but in the US itself, they’re basically people who run guilt trip commercials with an 800 number at the bottom of the screen for donations. There are a number of them. The only way they were working with the CIA is if a CIA person worked with them undercover to the extent they didn’t know they were CIA. They’re of the “extreme bleeding heart” variety to the extent that they can be a little annoying. They probably don’t view any government as a positive addition to their work when they’d be containing many of the people who lack trust in it and tread the tinfoil hat line.Recommend

  • Ameer

    You guys are such conspirators – GOD. Unless you know for sure that NGOs are using their funds to tarnish the image of your so-called “glorious nation”, don’t make assumptions. Go intern in an NGO or get a job to see that they have projects, each worth millions upon millions of Pakistani ruppees – the money from which is used to help marginalized communities. It’s way more than anything the Pakistani government would do for it’s own citizens. So please, show a little more gratitude. Not every foreigner on Pakistani soil is out to “get you”. Some people just want to help.Recommend

  • Saif Khan

    In which NGO you have worked so far???? I am working in this sector since last 16 years and I know each and everything though I cannot deny their generosity and help but all this with some hidden agenda (not hidden to me) and to cover some CIA agents. The recent example is the kidnapping of Warren Weinstein who is a CIA agent kidnapped by Taliban (ISI). Recommend

  • Myra

    @Shadytr33: Please read it… a direct quote from the blog

    While this may be true to an extent,
    it is doubtful that the children it
    saves will be affected. The 2,000
    Pakistani employees of the NGO are
    still allowed to work in the country.


  • Husna

    @Saif Khan: Then why you are working with NGOs for so long. It means you are also part of it. What a double standard…
    As a nation we have become so tune to conspiracy theories that we cannot differenciate good and bad. As the universe is diverse, so are people regardless of their nationality. There are good and honest people and there are bad ones as well. We must take on merit every action of an individual and for tham matter an organisation. We must give credit to Save the Children for all the good work they are doing in Pakistan. At the same time if some people are involved in acts beyond their mandate we must condemn them as well.Recommend

  • wolfie loves kulfie

    you know i actually feel bad for the poor people who will suffer cause this NGO is banned save the children has been doing a lot of charity work in Pakistan and over the world a Pakistani national working for this NGO was spying for the CIA agreed but how does it make the whole NGO a CIA cover when the CIA operates with ISI openly in Pakistan together except in this case of bin laden Recommend

  • Saif Khan

    @Husna: For your clarification, All of my comments are related to US funded agencies and NGOs and I have worked only once with such project. From then I have decided to never work with that. There are many other donors who are working in Pakistan mainly from Europe and I am happy to working with them. So I am never keeping double standards. I am straight forwards was never able to fit in such environments who promotes corruption. Recommend

  • Mirages

    Saif Khan i wonder why are you still in the sector you are against so much?Recommend

  • Madeeha

    Dear Saif Khan, i just studied about Save the Children, the one that works in Pakistan, via their international website. This organization has more than 20 donors and US is only one of them. Will you give them some margin now as you seem to be in favour of other donors and their funded projects? Recommend

  • Saif Khan

    For your kind information I am against the US funded and its agenda and its covering the CIA agents not against the NGO sector. US funds=promoting corruption in PakistanRecommend

  • Vikram

    Some Mullahs and politicians saw a good opportunity to have their relatives take over those management positions. Millions of dollars are spent by the charity. Pakistani managers can help their friends and families involved by sub contracting them the services.

    Everything happens in Pakistan because of money. Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Akhtar: Why not stop the zakat coming from non-Muslim countries? Let Muslim countries run your NGO and give you free ZAKAT.Recommend

  • Ahmed Mukhtar

    @Myra: I think you never got a chance to read Declan Walsh’s report on the matter in NY Times which suggests otherwise (Pakistan May Be Expelling Aid Group’s Foreign Staff). @ Shoukat Saeed: Best comment. Recommend

  • Unfortunately, anonymous

    As a current employee at Save, I can assure you that the expulsion has not had any long-term effect on our operations. The expulsion (which, as you may have read in the news, has been put on hold) was more of a pressurizing strategy by the government. A starkly similar strategy was adopted with the Raymond Davis case, the NATO supply termination and any/every other incident where the government has had leverage over the white man to get them to agree to the government’s terms. The foreign staff have left the organization but will return once this hype dies down and Pakistanis’ notorious short-term memory loss kicks. The organization brings in over $100 million per annum (figures available publicly on StC’s annual financial reports) to Pakistan and I doubt stakeholders will allow such large inflows to just stop.

    While my affiliation naturally makes my comment biased, like most employees working for foreign companies, my primary concern with the organization is whether I am guaranteed a consistent income in the present and future. Had I felt even somewhat threatened in that regard, I would’ve stated otherwise.Recommend

  • Myra

    @Ahmed Mukhtar,

    Although the government most recently
    said it has suspended the order to
    cancel the visas of the foreign staff…


  • http://pakistanstoday.com/ Adil

    After all our security agencies knew what was going inside ..Recommend