Threats keep UN away

Sep 30, 2013| Courtesy by :

Security challenges prolong quake survivors sufferings


ISLAMABAD – The government’s decision of not seeking international community’s help in dealing with the Balochistan catastrophe has prompted the three armed forces to get extensively engaged in the relief operations in the earthquake-hit areas but still thousands of the quake victims are in dire need of help.
In addition, the attacks on the Pakistan Army troops and government officials have rung enough alarm bells within the top power corridors and they are not interested in involving the United Nations and its humanitarian partners for the provision of relief assistance in Balochistan’s quake-hit districts due to security reasons.
“We cannot take the risk of endangering the lives of humanitarian workers from the international community in a terrain as challenging as Awaran, Khuzdar or any part of this belt,” Federal Information Minister and Prime Minister’s Spokesman Senator Pervaiz Rashid told The Nation on Saturday. “And we have resources, skill and will to deal with this calamity,” he said in a clear indication that the government will stick to its already taken decision on not seeking the UN’s assistance regarding Balochistan earthquake.
Being the native town of insurgent commander Allah Nazar, Awaran is regarded as one of the most security sensitive districts of Balochistan. A deadly earthquake of 7.8 magnitude on Tuesday had wrecked Awaran and Khuzdar districts and the adjoining belt to cause unprecedented destruction especially in Awaran where, according to estimates, more than 500 people are believed to be the quake casualties. On Saturday, a powerful aftershock measuring 7.2 magnitude came as a replica of the Tuesday catastrophe with 12 more people killed in the peripheral district.
The military is engaging additional troops for providing security cover to its relief teams, according to an insider.
Requesting anonymity, a military official said, it was getting increasingly difficult for the army troops to reach out to quake victims in different parts of Awaran, particularly Mashkay, following rocket attacks on the security forces from the insurgents. The General Officer Commanding (GOC) Quetta Major General Samrez Salik and Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Maj-Gen (Retd) Saeed Aleem had a narrow escape in one such attack during a recent visit to Mashkay.
Admitting that the relief activities were inadequate considering the magnitude of destruction, the official said, additional troops from Frontier Corps were being called to ensure foolproof security, in order to provide relief to maximum people. “Redressing the plight of quake victims alongside ensuring the troops security is turning out to be very challenging job.”
Pakistan Navy and Air Force have although joined the military in conducting the relief operations, the security threats have also kept the two armed forces from reaching out to majority of the quake survivors that are estimated in hundreds of thousands.
Earlier on Wednesday, the UN had said, it and its humanitarian partners were in close contact with the NDMA and, if requested, were ready to provide support for the relief efforts and to mobilise the international community. An official at a UN agency in Balochistan, requesting anonymity, said the UN and humanitarian partners had stored the humanitarian stockpiles as part of contingency plan for this year’s monsoon rains. “These stocks have not been exhausted because the UN and its agencies were not the part of humanitarian response to monsoon floods. In Balochistan, we’ve piled additional stocks and we’re on standby. The UN is ready to start humanitarian response in the areas affected by earthquake if requested by the Government of Pakistan.”
On the other hand, the government has shown no such attention to seek the world body’s help. “We are relying on our resources. The Prime Minister is personally monitoring the situation (from United States). He’ll visit the flood-hit areas as soon as he completes his visit and lands here,” Pervaiz Rashid said.