Pak ‘blocking’ aid to displaced tribals

Agence France Presse

Islamabad, February 1:

Pakistan has stopped aid organisations from helping displaced people in its tribal regions, including the southwest where a violent insurgency is raging, a rights group said in its annual report today. In 2004, humanitarian groups were barred from southwestern Baluchistan and also from northwestern Waziristan, where Pakistani troops are hunting Al Qaeda militants, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said. “Lack of access to media and humanitarian agencies in the zones of armed conflict has been a major concern during the last year,” commission member and former chairman Afrasayab Khattak told journalists at the report’s launch. “There is currently an armed conflict going on in Baluchistan, but unfortunately the government has a tendency to seal that area,” Khattak said.

He added people in the area of Sui, where Pakistan’s main gas field is located, had to abandon their homes after rebel tribesmen of the surrounding areas demanding jobs and royalties fired rockets on the gas plant, leaving eight people dead.

“They have been dislocated but the government is not allowing humanitarian agencies to help them,” Khatak said, adding that “It is also not allowing the media to cover the situation, so that other people could help them.”

Tahir Muhammad Khan, who heads the commission, said

that there were no accurate figures on the displacement of people in Sui but rebel tribal chieftain Nawab Akbar Khan has claimed about 1,000 people had to leave their homes.

The military said last week it would clear 500 dwellings from the area around the gas plant in Baluchistan, saying that the measure would prevent further attacks and protect residents from a possible explosion.

Military officials have said up to 800 regular army soldiers and at least 2,000 paramilitary troops had been guarding the area since the attacks.

Meanwhile people in Waziristan, where thousands of Pakistani troops fought pitched

battles with Al Qaeda suspects last year, also faced dislocations but all humanitarian assistance to them was blocked, Khattak added.