NGOs At Risk


By Malik Siraj Akbar

The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have played a remarkable role in highlighting  the problems of Balochistan and promoting development work across the  province. They have, nonetheless, faced a consistent image-deficit for a long time. They have worked amid all types of allegations and threats. While some sections of the society, particularly those with conservative religious inclination, have termed them foreign agents, the others, such as criminal elements, have treated them as ‘prime targets’ of kidnapping for ransom.

This quandary has filled the life of an NGO worker with serious threats and challenges.

The brutal killing of Maqbool Ahmed, a worker of the Balochistan Rural Support Program (BRSP), who had been kidnapped last year in December, is a reminder of the same alarming trend. Mr. Ahmed had been kidnapped from Pishin District along with six other staff members of his organization by Taliban, who have evolved from religious fanatics to professional kidnappers and murderers. The kidnappers demanded an unreasonably high amount for the release of the abducted workers which was improbable for the families of the kidnapped staffers to meet.

The Taliban have warned to kill the remaining five NGO workers if ransom is not paid. This is a serious warning which cannot be skirted. After all, Taliban are little known for offering concessions. Otherwise, Mr. Ahmed should have been spared for the reason that he was a Muslim and a Pashtun, the  ethnic group from which most of Taliban come. The victim’s religion and ethnicity did not help in keeping him alive. Therefore, we believe the lives of the other kidnapped workers is presently at high risk.

The Balochistan government has assured that the remaining five workers will be recovered safely but it is still not known who is going to bell the cat. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), a key component of the provincial government in Balochistan, has had longstanding ties with the Taliban. It is deplorable that ministers in the cabinet have had a history of supporting criminal elements like the Taliban. Yet, we have no option but to request the JUI leaders to engage with Taliban to make sure that the rest of the five kidnapped workers are reach home safe and sound.

Events like this send a negative message to the NGO world leading to complete suspension of their operations in the poor province which needs these organizations on priority basis. We urge the government of Balochistan to ensure the safety of all NGO workers so that they continue their mission without any fear and interruption. On more than one occasion, the NGOs have performed a better job than the government. They deserve protection in return of the remarkable job they are doing to promote people’s living standards.

Lastly, the family of Mr. Ahmed must be immediately and reasonably compensated because his killing was caused due to lack of timely official action. (Courtesy: The Baloch Hal)

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