Attack on Pakistani humanitarian workers ‘major setback’ to human rights

Insurgent groups in Pakistan must stop targeting humanitarian agencies that are trying to provide assistance to the country’s poor, said Amnesty International after six NGO workers were killed in the country’s northwest region.An attack on the office of Christian aid agency, World Vision, killed six of its Pakistani staff members in Manshera district, Northwest Frontier province, on Wednesday. Four men and two women died, according to the aid agency. Seven other members of staff were injured in the attack and taken to hospital. The organization has suspended all operations in Pakistan. World Vision said in a statement that no threatening letters were received prior to the attack. According to media reports, around 10 gunmen raided the World Vision office yesterday morning, gathering staff into one area and then opening fire on them. On leaving the building, the men set off explosives. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but the authorities suspect that the Taleban or related insurgent groups were behind the attack. Amnesty International has condemned all targeted or indiscriminate attacks on civilians. “This attack is a major setback for the human rights and humanitarian efforts underway in Pakistan. All armed groups to immediately end such attacks,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.  “Those suspected of carrying the attacks out or ordering them must be brought to justice and tried according to international human rights standards.” Millions of Pakistanis depend on international assistance for food, water, healthcare and education. The latest attack on World Vision staff impairs the already limited ability of aid workers to assist Pakistanis, particularly those in conflict-affected areas in the northwest region. “It is imperative that the Pakistan government and international community not only condemn such attacks but also take measures to regain stability and security for all those in the country,” said Sam Zarifi. Attacks and on aid workers and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) occur frequently in Pakistan and have claimed the lives of scores of innocent people. Insurgents frequently target aid workers accusing them of “spying” or “collaborating” with the Pakistani authorities. In April 2009, three women workers and a driver of a USAID-funded educational NGO, Rise International, were shot dead in Manshera. Local people suspected that militants were behind the attack. In February 2008, four Pakistani staff members of the British aid agency, Plan international, were killed and at least 10 injured following an attack on its office in Manshera. The organization, which had been operating in the area for 12 years, suspended its operations in the country.