Pakistan human rights body asks UN help to avert humanitarian crisis

Other News Materials 17 September 2008 22:39 (UTC +04:00)

Pakistan's leading human rights body on Wednesday called for an immediate United Nations intervention to avert an unfolding humanitarian disaster in the country's north due to a prolonged war with Islamic militants, reported dpa.

"Around 800,000 have been displaced and they are living without food and shelter. It is unlikely (to be able) to fathom the full magnitude of the human toll," said Iqbal Haider, co-chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) at a joint press conference with the leaders of another rights organization, People's Resistance.

Haider said the UN should give refugee status to the tribal people of Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province.

"These are Internally Displaced People (IDP) and should be treated according with international IDP laws," he said.

Both the HRCP and the People's Resistance, a citizens' pressure group, condemned the lack of reaction from international humanitarian organizations over the year-old rising Taliban militancy, continuous US bombing in tribal areas and operations by Pakistan Army.

Pakistan's security forces are carrying out major offensives against the rebels in the restive Swat valley of North West Frontier Province and tribal district of Bajaur, which borders Afghanistan and is believed to be a safe haven for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

The country's tribal areas have also seen increasing US incursions from Afghanistan in recent weeks. Haider said recent ground and aerial attacks by the US and NATO forces had exacerbated the situation.

"The US is trying to destroy our culture, our values and destabilize our country. It is time the international organization should take a notice before the situation engulfs the whole region," he said.

Abira Ashraf of People's Resistance, flanked by the father of an affected family, urged the international community to take immediate notice of US violations and the humanitarian crisis and to pressure the US to halt its attacks.

Father-of-four Mohammad Afzal, who recently fled with his entire family to Karachi from his Bara Bande village around five miles from Swat, said almost all the houses in his village had been flattened.

"There were 50 to 60 houses in the village and not a single is left undamaged," Afzal said, adding that some 20 buses a day were coming to Karachi packed with tribal people fleeing Bajaur, Swat and Waziristan.

Abira Ashraf said around 600 families had so far arrived in Karachi, just a fraction of 800,000 who are dispersed all across the country.

"We call upon Pakistan to stop its logistical support to the US," Ashraf said.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani meanwhile expressed deep concern over US violation of Pakistan's airspace and on the attacks well within the Pakistan territory at a meeting with US Chairman Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.

Early this month Pakistan's military chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani also said such reckless US action would only help the militants and further fuel the militancy in the area, adding that no external force was allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan.

Coalition forces have largely relied on Pakistan to quell Taliban and al-Qaeda-led militancy in its border areas since they invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Yet, with currently more than 120,000 Pakistani troops along the frontier, rebel cross-border raids continue, giving rise to suspicions in Washington that some rogue elements within the Pakistan Army and the powerful intelligence agencies are supporting the insurgency.