Last week, the children's charity Barnardo's issued a statement saying it had conducted an investigation that concluded there was no evidence to substantiate allegations made in January by The Mail on Sunday about the actions of its chief executive-designate, Javed Khan, during a land dispute in Pakistan. The statement echoed an earlier exoneration from Khan's current employer, Victim Support.
Both charities have declined to publish their investigations. Barnardo's said it considered the matter closed and was preparing for Khan to start work in May. It remains to be seen whether Khan's opponents will stop pursuing the matter.
The Mail on Sunday story alleged that shots were fired and threats made when Khan arrived in the village of Haveli Bagal in Kashmir with about eight men to address the land dispute. Khan, a former teacher who has had senior local authority jobs in Birmingham and the London Borough of Harrow, came to the UK as a child with his family, who also have land in Pakistan.
Khan issued a statement saying he had gone to Pakistan after a bereavement and was among a group who supervised the demolition of a wall illegally erected on his family's land: "We were acting in accordance with a written authority given to us by the proper local government officials. I wish to make it very clear that neither I nor any of my group were armed in any way and, needless to say, I did not threaten anybody in any way. The reason for my visit to a police station several hours after this incident was to accept an apology from the other party, who had been arrested for their actions and was in custody, following mediation by the police.
"At no point was I under police investigation. I believe these false allegations were made in response to the authorities ruling in favour of my family in relation to this property dispute and I will be seeking legal advice in relation to them."
Khan has declined requests for interviews and has made no further statement about whether he will be taking legal action against The Mail on Sunday or referring the story to the Press Complaints Commission.
After the initial reaction from Khan and Victim Support, Third Sector was emailed by a number of people about the incident. There is a Facebook page about it and an online petition, which has attracted one signature, urges Victim Support and Barnardo's to take note of the allegations against Khan.
Steve Kumal, who lives in Khan's home city of Birmingham and describes himself as "not involved in this but rather someone who is concerned about the leadership of Victim Support and Barnardo's", has posted on the Facebook page: "Is it OK for an individual like this to have a job in public office? Is he the right person to lead an organisation that represents vulnerable children?" Kumal also emailed a copy of a document in Urdu purporting to be a court summons to Khan.
Ian Harts emailed Third Sector with an open letter to Victim Support chair Enid Rowlands, asking whether Khan had "links to foreign organisations and Pakistani state political parties using Victim Support and Barnardo's as a cover?" He attached a social media picture of a poster about the fundraising efforts of the World Muslim Organisation that apparently shows Khan above the words in Urdu "chief executive of Barnardo's".
Harts has not responded to emails requesting further details and information about himself. The two charities and Khan have declined to respond to his allegations, although Barnardo's has said Khan was not on the charity's business when the incident took place in Pakistan.
When Victim Support announced the result of its investigation, which it showed to Barnardo's, it said it had been done by a former HR director with international experience who took evidence from Khan and officials in Pakistan, including police officers. "The trustees did not believe the costs likely to be incurred in travelling to Pakistan would be an appropriate use of the charity's money," a spokesman said. "For reasons of employment law and data protection it will not be published."
One HR specialist confirmed that internal investigations were not usually published because they looked at unproven allegations that, if widely distributed, could cause harm to the individual concerned. In this case, however, the allegations have already been made public.
After the Victim Support investigation, Third Sector received an email from someone who purported to be a Barnardo's employee and said many people at the charity were worried about the affair and had told management so: "To reassure us, they have said they are still investigating Mr Khan separately from Victim Support, even though they also say they are looking forward to him joining us." The sender has not responded to emails.
The following day, Barnardo's said it was looking into the allegations against Khan. It also denied it had received representations from staff expressing concern about his appointment. A week later, it said its investigation was concluded.
Asked to comment on the handling of the affair, Trevor Morris, visiting professor of public relations at the University of Westminster, said: "Charities and NGOs like to demand transparency of business and government, though many are themselves quite opaque. They need to be careful they are not seen as demanding standards of others that they are not willing or able to adhere to themselves. In the short term, keeping details of the investigation out of the public domain might dampen the fire, but in the long term it might make it difficult to demand openness and disclosure from others."