Access denied, but why?

In a recent article published in Dawn, Chris Lockyear of Doctors without Borders expresses concern over not being allowed access to quake-hit areas. He is right in arguing that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) or the military may not be as good at handling such emergencies as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), especially when it comes down to health-related issues. However, in order to understand Pakistani government’s view, the on-ground situation and the threats to MSF personnel need to be appreciated.

As he has mentioned, the MSF needs “to be guaranteed a basic level of safety before going in.” This – in a stronghold of insurgents – is simply not possible. The security situation in Awaran is not comparable to that in Kashmir or even Ziarat. Army has itself been targeted there. The chief minister’s helicopter was attacked with rockets. If safety could have been ensured, Army personnel would have ensured it for themselves and for other CM already.

Besides, it is highly unlikely that militants concern themselves with debates regarding MSF’s impartiality. They would rather view them as lucrative targets for gaining international attention.

In the given situation, perhaps it would be best for the MSF to help the government with its technical expertise, training and other resources from the back end. For its part, the Pakistani government should pave the way for that.


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