PESHAWAR: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the private humanitarian institution which has carried out operations even during the First and Second World Wars, has found the ‘current situation and constraints’ on its Pakistani mission, particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) taxing enough to thoroughly review its setup in the country.
The ICRC has already shut down three of its offices in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, simultaneously working on limiting its staff in Pakistan, said an ICRC official. “The reason behind the closure and limiting of staff in Pakistan was because of questions being raised about the operational procedure of the ICRC,” said ICRC Operational Communicational Manager Najam Saqib Iqbal.
“For the time being, we are closing down our centres in Hangu, Swat and Temargara (Lower Dir),” Saqib told The Express Tribune, adding that the current process would not be limited to K-P but the entire country.
However, a senior ICRC official requesting anonymity told The Express Tribune that the organisation would be limited to Peshawar only. “We have problems in Quetta also, but we will continue in the main towns with limited staff,” said the official.
A statement issued by the ICRC late on Wednesday said the organisation was facing increasing difficulties for the last few years in accessing areas and populations. “In addition, issues related to the ICRC’s scope of activities and set-up have been raised repeatedly … that is why the organisation is in the process of a thorough review of its setup with no more comments available at this time,” the statement read.
When contacted, ICRC Head of Sub-Delegation Peshawar, James Reynolds told The Express Tribune that the organisation was facing problems – however, he refused to comment about the nature of the troubles being faced by ICRC.
“We want to continue and carry on our process of helping humanity,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds went on to confirm the reports of limiting staff in certain offices but made it a point to mention that the organisation would still carry out activities in the area (Peshawar) through their main offices because of the humanitarian crisis in the region.
The ICRC has been one of the major organisations working in the militancy-hit areas of Hangu, Swat and Lower Dir. The organisation has been given access to these areas and in return the organisation has helped out by initiating different social and economic uplift programmes, particularly in the conflict zones. It is feared that the closure of its offices outside K-P will be disastrous for the flood victims and internally displaced persons in the country.
The organisation has had a permanent presence in Pakistan since 1981, initially concerned with helping victims of the armed conflict in Afghanistan. Its current operational focus is on assisting victims of the armed violence affecting K-P, Balochistan and other areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.