After suspending most of its major aid projects in Pakistan in May following the murder of a staffer, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has now decided to formally cut back its operations in this country in view of the prevailing security situation.

In an announcement made simultaneously at the Geneva headquarters and Islamabad, the ICRC said it had decided to terminate all activities in Balochistan, Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Sindh.

However, it will continue with its physical rehabilitation services in Peshawar and Muzaffarabad in partnership with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society. The Muzaffarabad project – which ICRC runs in collaboration with the Government of `Azad Jammu & Kashmir’ – was the only programme that survived ICRC’s earlier decision to suspend all activities in Pakistan.

Also, according to the head of the ICRC delegation in Islamabad, Paul Castella, they would be approaching Pakistani authorities in coming weeks to work towards reopening the surgical hospital in Peshawar which had been closed down after the kidnapping and murder of Quetta health programme manager Khalil Rasjed Dale on April 29. The British national’s mutilated body was found four months after he was kidnapped.

All visits to detainees in Pakistan will also stop but ICRC will continue to provide assistance to families seeking to restore and maintain contact with Pakistanis detained abroad. It will also maintain logistics assets in the country to support its operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and throughout the region.

Pakistan has been home to ICRC’s second-largest presence in Asia; second only to war-ravaged Afghanistan. Besides affecting beneficiaries across the country, the scaling down of operations will also result in job losses as the national staff-strength of ICRC in Pakistan was 1,005 as per the 2011 Annual Report. This excludes the daily wagers recruited on a regular basis.

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