‘Murder of activist in Dir threatens all NGO workers’
LAHORE: The assassination of 40-year-old Zubaida Begum, an Aurat Foundation activist in Dir, along with her teenaged daughter demonstrates the scale of the threat facing all workers, particularly women, of non-government organisations (NGO).
A statement issued on Friday by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that an HRCP fact-finding report showed that the terrible act was carried out by criminal zealots, determined to keep women in the dark ages.
HRCP demanded the immediate arrest of the killers of the two women and steps to ensure the safety of hundreds of activists working across the NWFP who face a heightened threat after the latest atrocity in Dir.
The statement said: “The killings demonstrate that the situation regarding the safety of NGO workers in the Northern Areas is worsening by the day. HRCP condemns the murder and urges all NGOs to stand together in combating the threat posed by extremists working in league with authorities who have consistently failed to protect activists.”
The fact that over the past year, religious fanatics repeatedly threatened NGOs in the NWFP, most frequently over efforts to politically empower women and give them a stronger voice in local councils, makes Zubaida Begum’s murder all the more ominous, the statement said. “More shocking still is the killing of her young daughter and the mocking phone calls made to relatives after their tragic deaths.”
The statement called attention to the fact that authorities had made no effort to punish those guilty of a series of attacks over the past few years on NGOs and their activists, notably women.
“These attacks have come in the form of murderous assaults, attacks on schools, the hurling of explosives at offices and through other means, which leave no doubt about the intention of the perpetrators to maim and kill. Dozens of schools for girls in the NWFP run with the support of donors and NGOs have been forced to close due to official failure to protect them. The impunity those behind such attacks enjoy can only embolden them. Apart from physical threat, NGO leaders and workers have also had to face volley after volley of verbal abuse from authorities at all levels,” the statement said.