The kidnapping of a doctor working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Quetta simply places more helpless people at peril. This has been the case each time an aid worker is kidnapped, the office of a humanitarian agency attacked or foreign teams working to deliver food, health care and other basic needs to people who have nothing at all targeted. Dr Khalil Diale was conducting aid work in Balochistan, delivering vital services to some of the most deprived persons in our land. He was abducted by unknown persons from a high-security neighbourhood when returning from his office. Like all ICRC workers, there was no security to protect him and he carried no weapons. The ICRC considers itself protected by its symbol, which carries a universal message of humanity at work. Clearly, there is no respect for this in the Pakistan of today.
Immediately after the incident, the ICRC has announced the closure of six field offices, including three based in the more remote areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Although it states this decision is not directly linked to Dr Diale’s kidnapping, there can be no doubt that such incidents make foreign aid agencies feel less secure and less able to operate in Pakistan. This is a tragedy, given how badly our country and people need the services expert aid workers are able to offer. Others have been targeted before in Quetta and in many other places. The result is more and more agencies have either shut down operations in the country or drastically reduced the scale of their work. There is, as yet, no clue as to whose hands the unfortunate Dr Diale, a British national, had fallen into. The ICRC spokesperson has said no claims for ransom have been made or other demands put forward. It is also clear that our security set-up is something of a disaster. Two years ago, the local UNHCR chief was abducted from precisely the same residential area. The lack of safety for aid workers will make lives of those people that they help, i.e. the impoverished and poor, even more miserable.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2012.
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