Peshawar: After the brutal killing of its executive director last year, SAWERA – an NGO working to promote women’s rights – once again came under attack on Saturday.
A bomb was planted by unidentified militants near the gate of the NGO’s office in Hayatabad Phase-I. The device, weighing six kilogrammes, rendered heavy losses to the building, furniture and a vehicle used by the organisation, but no loss of life was reported. “The blast also damaged two other houses in the area,” said a police official.
SAWERA's technical advisor Lal Jan Afridi said the NGO, which stands for Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas, is presently working on voters’ education and mobilisation in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). He added they are also providing livelihood to displaced persons not residing in refugee camps.
Jan said despite the murder of their colleague in Jamrud, Khyber Agency on July 4, 2012, they have continued with their operations fearlessly.
SAWERA's Executive Director Farida Afridi was shot dead while she was on her way to office from her house in Hayatabad, Peshawar. “She was a great loss for us, but that didn’t deter us from working for the welfare of poor people,” Jan told The Express Tribune.
He added they had not received any prior warnings of an attack on them, saying it was “sudden and tragic.”
Jan claimed they have now been compelled to suspend operations as their office has been completely destroyed. He said they will talk to donors to provide funds to compensate for the losses they have sustained. “We will do everything we can to ensure the organisation keeps running.”
He said the lives of the NGO’s employees were at stake and appealed to the government to provide them security. “We have 15 staff members, most of whom are females. They are gripped with fear after this blast.”
Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) Coordinator Idrees Kamal strongly condemned the attack.
“The terrorists are targeting these people because they don’t want the residents to come out from the clutches of darkness. We demand the government to compensate the organisation,” he said in a statement.
“The lukewarm response of Pakistani forces and their constant failure to catch the culprits are providing a safe haven for terrorists in tribal areas. These attacks are now happening on a daily basis. The caretaker government should chalk out a proper strategy to rid Pakistani soil of these militants,” he added.
Kamal said a PCNS delegation will soon meet the K-P chief minister and governor to discuss the issue. “We asked the previous government to provide jobs to the family members of the Swabi blast victims, but the demand was not fulfilled in their tenure. We now request the present government to compensate them.”
SAWERA is a local women-led NGO in Pakistan, working in Khyber Agency (a tribal area) in particular, and in Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA).
SAWERA is also active in flood emergency relief in District Charsada.
"No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live."
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, 1944 - 'Founding Father' of Pakistan.