Humanitarian workers currently engaged in desperate relief efforts across the country report many frustrations. Much of these are linked to resource constraints, to broken roads that prevent access to those most in need and to the sheer magnitude of the task they face. But many, particularly those linked to international organisations report that by far the biggest constraint of all to providing relief are the security concerns that prevent them from moving freely to help victims. In Islamabad, security briefings take up almost as much time as discussions on how to prevent disease and death and news of fresh fighting in the north is viewed with trepidation by security advisers.
This is truly a sad state of affairs. In a part of the world renowned for its hospitality, people who have come in from around the world to help people in desperate need face a risk to their own lives. This in turn prevents them from carrying out work at the level they may otherwise have been able to achieve. The danger is almost equally acute for local staff linked to overseas organisations. In the past they too have been kidnapped or killed in bomb attacks or other acts of violence.
The situation we face now should act as a reminder of the need to somehow turn back the hands of the clock. We need to rediscover the country we have lost and work out how this loss took place. Many familiar with the northern areas recall a time when it was safe for anyone, regardless of race or religion, to visit villages and seek the protection of locals. Quite how we move back towards this past is linked to our vision for the future. By offering people hope, a chance to move out of poverty and to gain access to opportunity we may be able to open up for them new doors.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2010.