7 teachers and health workers were killed today in Pakistan; 6 of the 7 were women. This is the second such killing in the last month, the other included 8 polio treatment workers. This is a disturbing trend indeed.
“There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the shooting, in the Swabi district of the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, fit a pattern of militant attacks against charity and aid workers across the country in recent weeks that officials have attributed to the Pakistani Taliban.”
Extremists are targeting these groups in particular for 3 reasons:
1) “Senior militants leaders have long accused vaccination drives of being a cover for government and international espionage and regularly threatened workers and officials involved in the effort, though never before to such deadly effect.”
2) These groups represent an empowerment of the people, which runs counter to extremist goals.
3) Pakistan, a predominantly Islamic state, does not like the empowerment of women represented by international aid organizations and western culture in general (relating back to 1 and 2).
1 is an obvious propaganda move based completely on lies. International aid workers and teachers are there to benefit society, and most NGOs have no government affiliation, hence the acronym NGO: Non-Governmental Organization. This justification, as weak as it is, is not based in reality.
2 relates to how extremists groups operate. These groups go to the most disenfranchised people in the most underdeveloped regions of the world, places where peoples basic needs are not being met by the government. They provide social services in exchange for protection and goodwill, and establish deep ties within communities. When international organizations provide services, or empower governments to provide services, it takes away one of the main footholds of extremist groups.
3 refers to gender inequality, which is prevalent in many LDC (least developed countries) but particularly significant in Islamic countries, where women are subjugated to traditional roles in the name of religion. Pakistani women of all ages are less educated than men; most women are what we would call “stay at home moms”—not by choice, but by lack of other opportunities. Only 12.6% of women work in non-agricultural jobs, which diminishes their earning capacity (and therefore their power in the household). Attached is some select data from the World Bank, highlighting gender inequality and underdevelopment in Pakistan.
There are both short run and long run implications of these actions. In the short run, the government or perhaps NATO must provide security for aid workers. If these attacks continue, aid workers will not go to Pakistan, in which case the extremists will have “won” (and will be emboldened by their successful use of force).
Long run implications are aligned with human development and reducing gender inequality. These goals are much more difficult to achieve as is— if NGOs deem Pakistan too dangerous for aid workers, these goals will become even more difficult to attain.