The grisly murder of a Red Cross worker and a video showing an American hostage pleading for his life highlight a perilous security situation in Pakistan that aid groups say is endangering their work.
Humanitarian organisations are reviewing operations in Pakistan after the killing of Khalil Dale, whose decapitated body was found on April 29, four months after he was abducted in Quetta.
The savage murder of the 60-year-old British convert to Islam sent shockwaves through the aid community, particularly as his employer, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has a reputation for neutrality.
Aid groups spend millions of dollars on helping millions of Pakistanis, yet attacks on their staff are increasing, according to the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), which represents nearly 50 international organisations.
Since 2009, at least 19 aid workers have been murdered and more than 20 abducted across Pakistan by militants and criminals, the PHF said.
“A few people have pulled out of coming for monitoring visits – we’ve had auditors coming from Europe and at the last minute they’ve decided not to come,” an official with one major Western aid group told AFP.
“We’ve really tightened up our security. For Islamabad our security staff says the risk is still low, but kidnappings are increasing, and from places like Multan – we never would have expected that.”
Senior ICRC officials from Geneva travelled to Pakistan after Dale’s murder to meet authorities and review the organisation’s presence in the country.
One option being considered, the source said, is to cut ICRC operations back to their level before a 2005 earthquake that killed more than 75,000 people.
That would leave just five expatriate staff in Islamabad and a hospital in Peshawar, down from about 100 foreigners at the start of the year.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2012.