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Extremists Target Female NGO Workers in Pakistan
Fatwa allows followers to 'keep' women they find
Ghafar Ali Khan (ghaffar)     Print Article 
Published 2007-06-02 12:25 (KST)   
PESHAWAR: A bomb blast near the office of an international aid agency, Save the Children Sweden, in Pakistan's Khyber tribal agency bordering Afghanistan injured at least two persons.

The bomb went off at 1 p.m. (local time) on Friday near the aid agency office situated inside a government run hospital at Landi Kotal near the Pak-Afghan border. Two employees of the hospital were injured in the blast. However, the condition of both the injured is stated to be stable.

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Hospital sources said that an international aid agency working for the welfare of children was the target of the blast. Save the Children Sweden had set up its office inside the hospital in the Khyber tribal agency a few weeks back.

The agency administration has confirmed the blast and said that no group has accepted responsibility for the attack. Explosives were used in the blast and no arrest has been made.

In the past few years NGOs have been under attack from militant groups in Pakistan tribal areas and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Local clerics are instigating people against the national and international NGOs. They blame NGOs for spreading "vulgarity" and "obscenity" among the Muslims and receiving aid from Jews and Christians for promoting a western agenda.

In April a bomb blast in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the NWFP capital city Peshawar damaged a number of vehicles while the watchman was slightly injured.

Last week chief of a religious group at Bara sub-division of Khyber agency issued warnings to female NGO workers through an illegal FM channel to abandon their work in the area or face forced marriages with the activists of the militant organization.

Extremist groups are targeting female officers and workers employed in various NGOs. In the remote mountainous northern districts of Upper and Lower Dir.

More than a dozen NGOs are operating in these districts in health, education, small and medium business, public health, and community development sectors, wherein more than 100 female officers and workers have been employed. Working women of these NGOs receive continuous threats from extremist elements.

A Pakistani news agency quoting Saima Ahmad, 30, an advocate by profession and a employee of a non-profit social sector organization, said that she could not feel at ease since she joined the organization as she received continuous threats and social pressure from various circles in the remote district of the North West Frontier Province.

She said that leaders of various religio-political parties and local prayer leaders were waging propaganda against female workers, adding that in some places fatwas (edicts) had also been issued against them.

"Anyone who finds a girl working for an NGO is entitled to keep her in his possession without nikkah (marriage contract) and he will not be considered guilty," Saima said, while quoting the text of a fatwa issued by a local prayer leader. Despite the odds she said she would retain her job as she had no other source of income to support her family
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ghafar Ali Khan

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