3 Christian aid workers murdered in Pakistan: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 3, 2010 p 6. September 7, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
Three Christian aid workers have been murdered by the Taliban in the Swat Valley of Pakistan’s North West Frontier the BosNewsLife agency has reported.
The Christian news agency reported that the three American aid workers were kidnapped by suspected Islamist militants. Their bodies were recovered on Aug 25 by the Pakistani Army and turned over to the US embassy. A source in the Pakistani Army told BosNewsLife the names of the dead and the charity for which they worked have not been made public so as “not to create panic” among foreign aid workers.
Last week, the Diocese of Peshawar released a statement saying that in the Khyber Pakhtunkwa Province, formerly known as the North West Frontier Province “the worst hit area is Swat. The people of Swat were first hit by militancy and now they are terrorized by the natural disaster, worst of its kind in the living memory. Thousands are still trapped in floods, as roads and bridges have been washed away.”
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the deaths, which so far have not been confirmed by the US Embassy in Islamabad.
The monsoon-driven floods have flooded an area the size of England, along the Indus river valley and have caused an estimated £3.25 billion in damages and displaced over 21 million people. The United Nations reports that an estimated 800,000 people remain stranded by the floods and are in need of food and clean water.
While this year’s monsoon has deposited 30 per cent more rain across the region, environmentalists blame the massive deforestation in the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province for the flash floods and landslides. The Pakistani press has also reported that many of the dams and levees built for flood control that have burst were built with sand covered by a veneer of concrete, evidence they say of systemic corruption in the government’s flood control program
The government of President Asif Ali Zardari has come under intense press and public criticism for visiting France and England at the height of the crisis and not cutting short his overseas tour. Prime Minister Yousaf Reza Gilani has focused his energies, critics charge, on the forthcoming parliamentary by-elections, and has addressed several political rallies announcing new development projects in marginal constituencies. The failure of the civilian government to respond to the crisis will likely further destabilize the regime, political analysts note, paving the way for a return to power by the army or the seizure of power by extremists.
The army has taken an active part in relief efforts, deploying over 100,000 troops in a rescue and relief mission entitled Operation Lab Baik. Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani has taken personal command of the military relief efforts and has been on the ground since the start of the crisis.
Coupled with the army’s efforts have been the activities of domestic and international relief agencies and the Taliban. The Islamist Jama’at-e-Islami’s Al-Khidmat Foundation has organized relief assistance camps, while the outlawed Jama’at-ud-Dawa and Laskar-i-Taiba are reported to have provided food and medical assistance in rural areas. In the Swat valley, the Tehreek-e-Taliban is reported by the Pakistani press to have a greater public presence in its relief efforts than the Pakistani government.
The UN’s emergency relief appeal for $459 million has resulted in pledges of assistance of $815.58 million from overseas NGOs and governments.
The minority Christian community in Pakistan has also joined forces to provide relief assistance.
Roman Catholic Bishop Andrew Francis of Multan and Church of Pakistan Bishop Alexander Malik of Lahore led a convoy containing food items and bottled water to the southern Punjab town of Khan Bela.
“This is our diocese. We have seen death with our own eyes in visits to flood hit areas. We came through these deadly waters to bring you food and show you that we care,” Bishop Francis told the UCA news agency on Aug 26.
“We are all Pakistanis and stand together amid this crisis,” Bishop Malik said.