Aid worker’s killing
THOUGH religious militants are capable of carrying out all sorts of atrocities, when victims are beheaded even the most jaded observer is left shaken. That was the gruesome fate which met British aid worker Khalil Dale, whose slaughtered body was discovered in a Quetta orchard on Sunday. Mr Dale, a convert to Islam who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross, had been kidnapped by the Taliban in January from the Balochistan capital. Reports indicate the senior aid worker was killed because a hefty ransom demand was not met. The ICRC has a well-earned, global reputation for neutrality and has — since the mid-19th century — maintained a presence in some of the world’s most difficult conflict zones.
For example, the Switzerland-based humanitarian outfit was active in Afghanistan during the days of the anti-Soviet resistance, during the civil war in the 1990s as well as when the Taliban ruled Kabul. It remains involved as the insurgency continues. But it seems that for militants, the line between aid workers and other non-combatants and ‘enemy’ troops and intelligence operatives has become increasingly blurred, with all westerners and those who work with them seen as fair game.
While the savagery of the militants can never be justified, some western intelligence agencies have complicated matters by reportedly planting operatives within the ranks of humanitarian organisations. This highly irresponsible policy has jeopardised the activities of genuine aid workers and put lives at risk. In Pakistan, we have seen that the Americans’ use of the polio programme to track down Osama bin Laden damaged the anti-polio effort in Fata and other affected regions. It appears that some in the western intelligence community are only concerned with achieving their targets, unperturbed about the consequences of their actions and methods. The governments concerned need to review these policies so that the reputation of international aid agencies and humanitarian outfits is not sullied. By ‘embedding’ operatives to meet perceived goals and gain access to ‘enemy’ territory, western intelligence agencies are compromising aid organisations’ reputation of neutrality and preventing these outfits from carrying out valuable humanitarian work in the world’s trouble spots.