Killing of NGO workers

The greatest threat is to local workers who are usually not provided even a fraction of security given to foreigners.


Editorial January 02, 2013
The greatest threat is to local workers who are usually not provided even a fraction of security given to foreigners. PHOTO: REUTERS

Working for an NGO in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or the tribal areas may be one of the most hazardous jobs in the country today. These NGO employees, working in crucial fields like education, health and women’s rights, are frequently denounced as ‘Western’ agents and have to go out in the field knowing that they have targets on their backs. The latest attack came in Swabi district when seven employees of the NGO, Support With Working Solutions (SWWS), including five women teachers, were shot dead by two gunmen. Swabi had already been known to be a dangerous place to work in as just last month, those administering polio vaccines had stopped their work out of fear for their lives.

The government, quite apart from providing requisite security, has made NGO workers more insecure in the country. Last year, it deported all foreign workers of Save Our Children charity for having links to the CIA. The government made this accusation without providing any proof and so put the life of every NGO worker in the country at risk through its irresponsible actions.

The most high-profile militant actions against NGOs have been those targeted at foreigners. In December, a Swedish charity worker was killed after being shot in Lahore, whereas aid worker Warren Weinstein, who was kidnapped in Lahore, still remains missing. But the greatest threat is to local workers who are usually not provided even a fraction of the security given to foreigners. In the wake of the Swabi killings, every NGO must ensure all its employees are given the same level of protection. This job should fall on the government but hoping that it will do the right thing is an exercise in futility. Instead, the NGOs themselves will have to pick up the government slack before the fear spreads so far that they are unable to find a single person to do this vital work.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2013.

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