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U.S. Policy in Pakistan Fails to Protect Civilians

Washington, DC  – U.S. assistance should not be provided to Pakistani military units that have committed gross human rights abuses, a Refugees International field report said today. Under the Leahy Law, assistance cannot be provided to a foreign military unit if there is a belief that gross human rights violations have been committed. While military operations in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) continue to displace thousands of civilians, the dual role of the military in the humanitarian aid operation along with allegations of human rights abuses during counterinsurgency operations have yet to be fully explored by Congress and the Obama administration. Current UN estimates put the number of displaced people at 1.24 million, 130,000 of whom have left areas of conflict since the beginning of this year.

“At present, it doesn’t seem as if humanitarian concerns are a sufficiently high priority in U.S.-Pakistani relations,” said Patrick Duplat, Advocate for Refugees International. “Since September 11th, the U.S. has provided an enormous amount of financial support to Pakistan, but has remained largely silent about humanitarian and human rights abuses. The time to address the well-being of the over a million displaced Pakistanis is now.”

The field report, “Pakistan: Short-Sighted Policies Hindering U.S. Goals”, also addresses the need to ensure that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) projects in FATA, an area with large-scale displacement, are effective. The current situation there is still highly volatile, with USAID officials and international aid groups unable to access most of the area. The insecurity in the area makes large-scale programs impossible. During its most recent trip to Pakistan, Refugees International found that the most effective programs were small and targeted and that the current emphasis on, “delivery at all costs has led to questionable outcomes.” Last year’s decision to shift the responsibility of aid and development from American contractors and aid organizations was a welcome move to strengthen the Pakistani government, but in practice it has led to funding through the Pakistani army.

“It’s in the Obama administration’s best interest to have a civilian-led response to the displacement crisis in Pakistan,” added Mr. Duplat. “Is the Pakistani military the best use of development assistance? Is the American government vetting Pakistani military units for human rights abuses? These are not unimportant questions and I think the answer at this point is very unclear.”

Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. Read their most recent field report, “Pakistan: Short-Sighted Policies Hindering U.S. Goals”, go to: www. refugeesinternational.org

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For Immediate Release: April 5, 2010
Contact: Vanessa Parra, 202-904-0319
[email protected]