Donors are working to ensure the safety of aid workers in Pakistan after reports surfaced that Taliban rebels in the flood-ravaged nation could launch attacks against relief groups.
The U.S. and other donor nations assisting Pakistani flood victims had other unspecified “intentions,” said Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, as reported by BBC.
“No relief is reaching the affected people, and when the victims are not receiving help, then this horde of foreigners is not acceptable to us at all,” he told The Associated Press on Thursday (Aug. 26) through BBC. “When we say something is unacceptable to us one can draw his own conclusion.”
United Nations aid chief John Holmes said Aug. 26 U.N. security experts will collaborate with other international organizations “to assess what the risks are and to minimize them.”
“We will obviously take these threats seriously as we did before, and take appropriate precautions, but we will not be deterred from doing what we believe we need to do, which is help the people of Pakistan… who have been affected by the flood,” Holmes told a news conference in New York.
U.N. spokesman Maurizio Giuliano, meanwhile, said the Taliban’s threat will not stop the global agency from assisting flood victims in Pakistan. He told BBC Aug. 26 that the U.N.’s work has not been affected by the “perceived insecurity.”
“We have to be vigilant,” Giuliano said, adding that the U.N. is confident that the Pakistani government will continue to provide security for aid workers.
The U.N. spokesman urged aid groups to not be intimidated by “threats of insecurity, let alone rumors of such threats,” The New York Times reports.
A spokesman for the World Health Organization, however, claimed that the agency’s operations in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan have been affected by security concerns.
“Now with this threat it means either we have to downsize the operation - which means less access to the affectees - otherwise we have to take more mitigation measures in order to reduce the security risk, which means more resources,” Ahmed Farah Shadoul said as quoted by All Headline News.
The U.S., meanwhile, is working with the Pakistani government to ensure that its disaster response can continue amid the Taliban’s threat.
“It is a real threat,” U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Aug. 26 at a press briefing in Washington, D.C. “We have information of the potential targeting of foreign relief workers in Pakistan as well as government ministries.”
A senior U.S. official earlier warned of possible attacks by Taliban rebels againts aid workers in Pakistan.
“According to information available to the US government, Tehrik-e Taliban plans to conduct attacks against foreigners participating in the ongoing flood relief operations in Pakistan,” the official told the BBC on condition of anonymity.Pakistanis are “impressed” and “grateful” to the U.S. for the donor nation’s humanitarian operations in the Islamic country, a top U.S. military official said.
“I think they’re impressed. They’re grateful. I have seen many occasions when these civilians have approached both the Pakistani military service members as well as our own pilots, crew chiefs, cargo handlers, to express their gratitude, their thanks that someone has come to their assistance,”Michael Nagata, U.S. defense representative in Pakistan said as quoted by the Press Trust of India.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has denied allegations that U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, who has been touring flood-hit areas in Pakistan, visited a relief camp run by a group with links to terrorists.
Shah visited flood victims residing in the Double Session High School in Sukkur, which is “under the supervision of the government of Pakistan,” Rick Snelsire, spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Pakistan, said in a statement, as reported by The Cable’s Josh Rogin.
“At no time during his visit did Dr. Shah encounter or meet with any members of a banned extremist organization,” he added.
The massive monsoon flooding in Pakistan caused heavy damage to infrastructure.
“You have to highlight that the infrastructure all the way from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to Sindh is ruined,” Iqbal Zahid, a Pakistani Navy battalion commander said as quoted by The New York Times. “It will take years to rebuild.”
Holmes said U.N. funds “offered or already contributed inside and outside the appeal for this crisis” are approaching USD1 billion.
“That’s a reasonable response, but we certainly need more,” Holmes said.
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have been ordered to evacuate as floods head south, BBC reports.
Pakistan was due Aug. 26 to officially request the deployment of Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, which conducts emergency relief operations for up to 40 days.
“We maintain daily contact with the government of Pakistan. We have spoken to the government of Pakistan on numerous occasions about the types of civilian and military tools the government of Canada can draw on to respond to this disaster, including the DART,” a spokesperson for Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon told The Star.