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Pakistani daily worried over aid workers' restrictions


Islamabad, Feb 18 (IANS): Testrictions on aid workers in the country's northwest must be "softened and rationalised" after new guidelines were issued following the tracking down of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden through a vaccination campaign, a leading Pakistani daily said Monday.

An editorial in the Dawn Monday said that it was a move that "smells uncomfortably of paranoia of the sort Pakistan is wont to suffer from".

"But if the raison d'être of a state and government is even remotely understood as catering to the needs of the population, it amounts to cutting off the nose to spite the face," it added.

The interior ministry had ordered the expulsion of foreign workers of Save the Children when it was found that Shakil Afridi used a vaccination campaign to mask his efforts in locating Osama.

Now, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has issued a new, cumbersome set of guidelines and restrictions.

"A clue as to why this is so can be found in the realities that prevail across the districts where the restrictions apply. These include Buner, Swat and Malakand - areas where suspected militants and security forces have a considerable presence. By implication, given the government and military thinking post-Bin Laden, every aid worker might be indulging in espionage," said the daily.

"...These new requirements are likely to have an adverse effect on humanitarian work being undertaken by international organisations and their local partners, curtailing activities and impacting the amount of funds received," it added.

The editorial stressed that in the interests of the citizenry "these restrictions must be softened and rationalised if not removed altogether".

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