Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another unresolved crisis: the Pakistan flooding

The floods in Pakistan last year destroyed over 1.5 million homes. A great percentage of the flooding victims are still homeless to this day. Aid organizations have been hampered in their efforts because of spy wars between the US and Pakistan. The wars have escalated since the death of Osama Bin Laden as Pakistan tries to stop any CIA activity in the country.

From the Guardian. writer Declan Walsh describes another long past crisis that remains unresolved.

With millions of flood victims still in urgent need of aid, western charities say their efforts are being hit by the fallout from Osama bin Laden's death as the government hunts for CIA spies. Stringent visa regulations and restrictions on movement by the military are causing long delays, increasing costs and affecting the delivery of aid to areas hit by floods and the conflict with the Taliban.

Last month a young American aid worker with Catholic Relief Services was brought to court for visa irregularities, imprisoned for nine days, then deported. British agencies say their staff have fallen under the microscope of Pakistan's spy service, the ISI, with officials visiting field offices and introducing restrictions on travel.

"We've seen gradual restrictions on movement and longer processing time for visas," said a spokesman for the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, which represents 40 aid groups.

The crackdown started after CIA agent Raymond Davis shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore last January, and intensified after the killing of Bin Laden in Abbottabad on 2 May.

Aid workers in Sukkur, a southern city at the heart of flood relief efforts, started to complain of regular visits from intelligence officers and police. In Jacobabad, location of a sensitive airbase, agencies were told that visiting certain areas now required a "no objection certificate" – an official letter of permission.

"The authorities have started paying more attention to who is in the country and what they are doing," said Michael O'Brien of the Red Cross.

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