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Atif M. Malik
Health and Human Rights 13/1
Published June 2011
During the catastrophic floods of 2010 in Pakistan, approximately 500 internally displaced families belonging to the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam were denied humanitarian relief. The failure of international agencies and Pakistan’s government to protect basic human rights in the context of disaster relief raises profound questions. If all humanitarian work associated with natural disasters must be governed by canons of human rights, how should international agencies deal with legally empowered official discrimination? A review of the history of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan reveals decades of state-sanctioned persecution, particularly through its anti-blasphemy laws, and poses a serious challenge to the international community. When effective intervention is predicated on cooperation with state institutions, how can international relief agencies avoid becoming implicated in official discrimination? The denial of flood aid to Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community highlights the need for concerted action in disaster settings to prevent discrimination against vulnerable groups. Discriminatory legislation is not only a violation of basic norms enshrined in international compacts, it is a key problem for disaster relief.
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