A senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross reports a significant increase in violence throughout Pakistan since former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed on May 2 by U.S. special forces. The outgoing head of the ICRC delegation in Pakistan says tensions are spreading throughout the country.
Pascal Cuttat is wrapping up a three-year term as head of the ICRC delegation in Pakistan. He assumed his posting in 2008, shortly after two million people had fled their homes because of fighting in the northern Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Many have since gone home.
Cuttat notes about one million people currently are displaced in Pakistan due to fighting in the tribal areas, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
He said the ethnic, political and religious divisions in Pakistan have become more complicated and instability has increased since Osama Bin Laden was killed.
“The situation in Pakistan and throughout Pakistan since Osama bin Laden’s death has seen an intensification of fighting and an intensification of violence," Cuttat said. "Not the least also because violence is increasingly reaching the big towns. Peshawar and Karachi both have seen a sharp increase of violence in the aftermath of this event.”
Red Cross humanitarian operations focus primarily on fighting-affected communities. But it has expanded its humanitarian operations to help tens of thousands of victims of natural disasters, especially victims of last year’s devastating monsoon floods. Many of the estimated 20 million people affected by the floods still have not recovered.
The Red Cross supports more than 200,000 people displaced by fighting. It works with the Pakistani Red Crescent Societies to help more than two million flood victims.
ICRC spokesman Christian Cardon said the biggest challenge facing his organization’s operation is access to many victims of the fighting. He says it is not possible to help people in need if they cannot be reached.
“In terms of the needs, I would say that what we can see today is that you still have many people affected by the floods of last year and also many people who continue to be affected by armed violence in different parts of the country, more precisely in the northwestern part of the country," Cardon said. "As far as we know and to the region where we have access, we consider there are still lots of people affected and lots of people who have to just flee their homes because of the fighting.”
Since bin Laden’s death, the ICRC notes Pakistan has become more suspicious of foreigners working in the country. This is making it more difficult for them and other aid agencies to operate.
It says it is far more complicated now than before to obtain the necessary permits and visas that would allow them to enter the country. The ones who are suffering most from this changing policy it says are the many victims of war and natural disaster who may be deprived of the aid they need.