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.