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PAKISTAN: "NGOs should leave Swat" - insurgent leader

KARACHI, 22 March 2009 (IRIN) - Insurgents in Pakistan’s volatile Swat Valley in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) who recently made a peace deal with the government now want all NGOs to leave the area.

“They come and tell us how to make latrines in mosques and homes. I’m sure we can do it ourselves. There is no need for foreigners to tell us this,” Muslim Khan, a spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), told IRIN from Swat Valley.

“NGO is another name for vulgarity and obscenity. They don’t want us to remain Muslims and want to take away the veil from our women,” Khan claimed.

He said NGOs hire women who work alongside men in the field and in offices. “That is totally un-Islamic and unacceptable,” he said.

Maulana Fazalullah, the leader of Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah-Mohammadi (TNSM), who has aligned himself with TTP (see the origins of violence in Swat Valley), said on an illegal FM radio station on 2 March: “All NGOs should leave Swat because they are creating problems for peace.” In an earlier interview Fazalullah said: “All Pakistanis working for them (NGOs) are enemies of the country.”

A government official struck a conciliatory tone. “We respect the work of NGOs, both local and international NGOs,” said Jameel Amjad, NWFP provincial relief commissioner. “Right now we are pursuing a policy of conciliation and things have worked out well so far in Swat. With time, I’m sure, when the situation normalises, the work of the NGOs will further strengthen.”

International NGOs are working through local implementing partners, he said.

NGO situation in Swat

Mohammad Roshan of Swat Participatory Council (SPC), a local NGO, said there were about 10 NGOs currently active in Swat Valley. None of them declare they are Muslim or Islamic; all are non-profit organisations and do not differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims when it comes to providing aid, he said.

Among international NGOs, only humanitarian medical organisations are reportedly allowed. “Only Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF], the International Committee of the Red Cross and some local philanthropists who are distributing relief goods to internally displaced persons [IDPs] are allowed,” said Khan.

MSF, which had stopped work after two of its staff were killed on 1 February, has resumed work, Fasil Tezera, MSF (Belgium) head in Pakistan, confirmed.

Since the insurgency began in 2007 some local NGOs have pulled down their sign-boards. However, some are working with the implicit approval of the Taliban, said Roshan.

Three months ago Caravan, Diya, Khealkor and Anjuman Behbood e-Khwateen (Organisation for the Welfare of Women) and other local NGOs formed a group called the Disaster Response Network, which has been helping internally displaced people and distributing food aid.

Aid held up by TTP

Ziauddin Yusufzai, a college principal in Swat, said: “The TTP looks upon the NGOs with displeasure. They [the TTP] have even refused to accept relief goods from some international relief organisations, saying that help from non-Muslims is unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, Badar Zaman, chief editor of The Malakand Times and a former NGO head, said some food and non-food items were being kept in Malakand Agency waiting for a nod from the TTP which has stopped further distribution pending the imposition of Sharia (Islamic) law.

The Taliban said Zaman, “are not corrupt”. He claimed that if they had been involved, “at least relief goods would not be on sale in Mingora market”.

Against polio vaccinations

Khan said the TTP was against polio vaccination, repeating unfounded allegations that the vaccine causes infertility. Similar allegations have blocked the polio eradication campaigns in parts of Pakistan before. “I’m 45 and have never had one drop of the vaccine and I am still alive.”

Part of the problem is that the anti-polio campaign is run by NGOs and the vaccine is imported, said Khan. “We would have no problem, if the vaccine had been made locally, in Pakistan,” he said, adding that the TTP was particularly against all foreign overtures on family planning. (See also: Taliban attitudes to contraception in Afghanistan.)


Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) Gender Issues, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition


Copyright © IRIN 2009
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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