Militancy and violent crime have risen dramatically in recent years. Life and property are at risk across the country and the state has failed its citizens. But when security personnel feel insecure and high-profile politicians fear for their lives, it comes as no surprise that ordinary people are at the mercy of those toting guns and bombs.

Monday’s ambush in Quetta that left an employee of the UNHCR dead and led to the abduction of the refugee agency’s Quetta office chief is more than a personal tragedy for the families of those who were attacked. It could have wider repercussions as well. It is an ominous development that sends all the wrong signals to foreign and local agencies providing aid to those who desperately need assistance. If such relief programmes come to a halt, tens of thousands of people with no other means of support will lose their only hope for survival.

No trace had been found until Tuesday afternoon of John Solecki, the UNHCR Quetta chief. Given that the incident took place in Balochistan, it is being said the captors could be associated with the Taliban, with Baloch nationalists or a criminal gang.

Solecki apparently did not ask for a police escort but it is time that heightened security measures were put in place for all high-profile relief agency officials in Pakistan.