February 26th, 2021
Protest demonstrations are being held to express outrage at the killings of four female aid workers in North Waziristan.
Unidentified gunmen shot dead Nahid Bibi, Irshad Bibi, Aisha Bibi and Javeria Bibi inside a van after one of their colleagues Maryam Bibi went into their office in Ipi village near the city of Mir Ali on 22nd February. The driver of the van was wounded in the firing. The women worked on daily wage of Rs 1000 for a non-government organisation’s women empowerment project in Bannu adjoining the North Waziristan tribal district.
Shabina Riaz, resident director of Aurat Foundation, criticised the slain aid workers’ organization for failing to protect its workers and employing them on less than the minimum wage. “It’s a shame that an organization working for women empowerment did this to its workers,” she told Voicepk.net
The brutal killings have raised fears of insecurity and violence faced by female aid workers. Speaking to Voicepk.net, female aid workers said they were targets of domestic violence in homes and are killed if they go outside for employment. The slain women belonged to impoverished families and earned a meager Rs 16,000 each from their contract job. “These hapless women and other aid workers operate in a very hostile environment on a meager pay,” said Saima Munir, a female aid worker. She said the only guilt of the slain aid workers was that they were imparting skills to women, adding that violence against women has peaked in the province. “Are they trying to build a society without women by killing skilled and educated women and female singers and subjecting the rest in homes to domestic abuse,” she said.
Tahira Kaleem, another female aid worker, demanded that the government hold a thorough probe into the killings, adding that mere lip service will be unacceptable to them. “We want names of those behind the killings and we won’t accept the excuse from the government that the perpetrators have been simply killed,” she added.
In Peshawar, a demonstration was organised by the youth wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami to show solidarity with the female aid workers. Addressing the protesters, Rehman Ullah, JI Amir of North Waziristan, said targeting of women was beyond understanding and against cultural norms of the province. He called for exemplary punishment for the perpetrators of the attack, adding that the families of the slain women deserve justice. He criticized the provincial government over its lukewarm response to the tragic killings of female aid workers.
Kamran Bangash, the spokesperson of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, said senior officials were in touch with local police over the incident, adding that the outcome of the investigation would be shared with the media.
The aid organizations point out that it was not the first incident in which female aid workers were targeted by terrorists. Previously, female polio workers and a teacher were killed in separate attacks in Khyber districts. In response to the target killings, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police stated officials have acted promptly in such cases following legislation on gender-based violence in the province. Police have claimed to have killed the ringleader of the group involved in the Mir Ali attack.