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PAKISTAN: Violence against aid workers goes unabated

PAKISTAN: Violence against aid workers goes unabated

Amir Murtaza
February 4, 2013

The protection of human rights defenders, community and health workers and NGOs staff have become a serious issue in Pakistan as incidents of violence against them has been reported in regular intervals. Unfortunately, the government officials have so far not devised any mechanism to provide protection to those who are trying to alleviate the sufferings of disadvantaged sections of the society.

On 31January 2013, four male community workers of HANDS were kidnapped from the outskirts of Karachi and so far there has been no clue about them. HANDS is a registered NGO and since its inception in 1979, the organization has been providing an array of health, education, relief and other development services to the inhabitants of disadvantaged and marginalized areas of the country.

The Pakistani civil society organizations in general and those located in Sindh in particular, have strongly condemned the shocking incident and demanded the government and law enforcement agencies to take immediate measures for the recovery of four community workers.

In December last year, six polio health workers, including lady health workers, were killed and some others were injured in different violent attacks in Karachi and northern parts of the province. Similarly, in another astonishing incident, occurred in the month of October 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot by Taliban while on her way home from school in Swat valley. The girl's right to education campaigner is now under treatment in United Kingdom.

According to an article, "The most dangerous place for aid workers", by Jenny Lei Ravelo on devex.com in January 2013 stated that, "Pakistan ranked as the second-most dangerous place for aid workers in 2012, according to research by Humanitarian Outcomes. The data hasn't been verified yet, the organization says, but it is available online and is expected to find its way into an annual report to be published later this year." The article further said that Afghanistan continues to be the most dangerous place for aid workers; while South Sudan is at number three on the list.

Mohammad Anwer, an International Development Expert, informed that even in some of the biggest wars of recent times, aid workers enjoyed protection and immunity from attacks. He, however, mentioned that during the last decade the aid workers have become an easy target of violent and terrorist groups in many parts of the world. It is a fact that increasing number of attacks on aid workers clearly demonstrates the threats and risks under which they are providing services and minimizing human miseries.

In Pakistan, civil society organizations, NGOs, humanitarian and aid workers are often seen as representatives or followers of western ideology. And, often their sincere work is regarded as western agenda. Polio immunization campaign is a clear example of such mindset. The wrong interpretation of development work have made humanitarian and aid workers a target of violent attacks from those who are imposing their point of view by force.

There is no denying that civil society organizations, NGOs, humanitarian and aid workers are playing a significant role in social and economic development of the country. It is these organizations, which fills the vacuum created by the inefficiency, lack of interest, and corruption at government level. The state atleast should provide some security to these workers so they may continue their services without any fear or hesitation.

As their safety is primarily the government's responsibility; therefore, the government should immediately prepare a plan of action for their security. Additionally, civil society organizations and NGOs should organize special courses for their staff to improve their understanding about security and protection issues, especially in troubled areas.

The AHRC is not responsible for the views shared in this article, which do not necessarily reflect its own.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Visit our new website with more features at www.humanrights.asia.

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ENDS

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