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Amid UN Speeches on Pakistan, Blockade and Starvation of South Waziristan Ignored as Apple Crop Rots

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 20 -- As the Pakistan floods meeting limped into a slow second day in the UN General Assembly in New York, in the country's South Waziristan district the apple crop, now until military blockade, threatened to rot.

Amid the desire by the UN, the U.S. and others to praise Pakistan's government, few wanted to speak of the plight of those in the FATA or tribal areas.

  The only official way in or out of South Waziristan, sources on the ground tell Inner City Press, is as part of infrequent military convoys on two roads. The crops grown in the district now cannot be exported, not unlike the roses once grown in Gaza.

   North Waziristan is subject to deadly drone strikes by the United States. On August 19, Inner City Press asked Richard Holbrooke about the area, and he said it was too far away to comment on, that John Kerry was there. Kerry spoke on August 20, alongside President Asif Ali Zardari, about the danger of “militants” promoting their cause after the floods.

But what about those living in South Wazirstan, who no longer have livelihoods, due to the US supported Pakistani blockade? Shouldn't the UN, whether Special Envoy Jean Maurice Ripert or otherwise, be advocating for them?

Thursday outside the GA, Inner City Press and others repeatedly asked Jean Maurice Ripert to come and speak on microphone, as Richard Holbrooke and the foreign ministers of Canada and Pakistan.

  Ripert's excuse to refuse the request was that Ban Ki-moon was in the GA and should be the one to speak to the Press. Later, a UN communications official told Inner City Press that Ripert's pretext for not doing his job was spurious.

Ripert speech, headache, apples rotting in Waziristan not shown

  Ban did not, while the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan did, albeit making the absurd claim that every inch of Pakistan is in the full control of the government.

One is left wondering, where in the UN system is the equivalent for South Waziristan of John Ging in Gaza? If the purpose of these meetings is, as claimed, the plight of civilians in Pakistan, why is the slow starvation and increasing isolation of those in Pakistan's tribal area being met with so much silence, including at the UN?

Update of 1:35 p.m. -- at the UN noon briefing of August 20, Inner City Press asked UN acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about access to Waziristan, and the availability of Jean Maurice Ripert -- video here from Minute 7:52, and watch this site.

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On Pakistan, Holbrooke Dodges Drone Questions, Qureshi Says UN Lacks Capacity, UK & Canada Spin on Cameron & Council

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 19 -- Richard Holbrooke, speaking to the Press outside the UN General Assembly's meeting on Pakistan floods, declined to answer a question about US drone strikes in North Waziristan.

  Inner City Press asked about the UN's statement that it is blocked from accessing areas where security operations are underway by the Pakistani military, such as North Waziristan. If the UN cannot enter, who will aid be delivered?

   “We are too far in New York from those flooded tribal areas,” Holbrooke answered, adding the Senator John Kerry is there, and USAID's Rajiv Shah is headed there on Sunday along with two members of Holbrooke's team.

But the US drones fired into North Waziristan are controlled from as far away as New York, if not further.

Inner City Press asked Pakistan's Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi why his country bars the UN and its international staff from parts of the country, as UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Mogwanja conceded earlier on Thursday.

    Qureshi finessed his answer that the UN doesn't really have capacity.

Holbrooke and UN's Ban previously: drones and UN lack of capacity not shown

  In some areas, he said, the National Disaster Management Authority does a better job.

UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell, just back from Pakistan, told Inner City Press that his many meetings with General Nadeem of the NDMA” left him assured that aid will reach its target.

Inner City Press asked about UK Prime Minister David Cameron's assertion that Pakistan exports terrorism, and whether as alleged by Pakistan authorities this undercut contributions to the flooding crisis.

  Mitchell emphasized how well Cameron's meeting since the comments had gone with Zardari. But Zardari's extended European trip after the flooding began has caused its own problems in Pakistan.

Canada's Minister for Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon came to the UN, but not with any new pledge. Inner City Press asked if this reflects Canada's longer term strategy, and how it might impact on Canada's desire for a seat on the UN Security Council, for which it is competing against Portugal and Germany.

  Cannon noted that his country's plan includes longer term reconstruction, and said the Security Council campaign is going well. We will have more on this.

Footnote: cynics observing the GA's session of speeches noted that Denmark is still trying to make up for the cartoon controversy, and the UAE's royal family has uses part of the Punjab for hunting. Interest, self-interest.

* * *

In Pakistan, UN Is Denied Access to Areas But Stays Silent, Won't Urge Acceptance of Aid from India

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 19 -- Amid the fundraising for flooded Pakistan on August 19, world Humanitarian Day, the politicization of the UN's operations also became clear.

  The UN's Martin Mogwanja provided a telephone briefing, in which Inner City Press asked about top UN humanitarian John Holmes' recent statement about parts of the country to which the UN had no access. Video here, from Minute 33:41.

Since Mogwanja insisted that the government has full control of all areas of the country, how did this square with Holmes statement, and for example the U.S. drone stikes in North Waziristan?

  Mogwanja replied that these were not contradictory, that the government has “full control” of all areas, but blocks the UN's access due to its security operations.

Leaving aside whether the government can be said to control sealed off areas into which another country fires drone missiles, one wonders why the UN has not complained publicly about the denial of humanitarian access, as it complains elsewhere.

Inner City Press asked Mogwanja, as the UN humanitarian coordinator, for his view on Pakistan's refusal until now of a $5 million offer of aid from India. Given Mogwanja's and Holmes' statements about humanitarian needs trumping politics, one expected an answer along the lines of, “aid should generally be taken, when people are facing death.”

Instead, Mogwanja replied that “each government is free to decided what to contribute, equally each government is free to decide what it will accept.” He called it a decision for sovereign governments, nor for a UN humanitarian coordinator.

But wasn't the role of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to publicly prioritize civilians needs over the dilatory politics of governments?

UN's Ban in Pakistan, denial of humanitarian access not shown

Inner City Press asked about Ban Ki-moon's envoy to Pakistan Jean Maurice Ripert. Mogwanja insisted that Ripert had returned from his overseas travels “as soon as the flood took place.”

Not so. From July 29 -- the date Mogwanja used -- to August 4, Ripert was AWOL. On August 2, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman where Ripert was. It's not about an individual, spokesman Martin Nesirky answered. On August 4, Ban called for Ripert to return to Pakistan. That is one week, hardly “as soon as.”

Mogwanja said that in the coming weeks and months the government of Pakistan will hold events closely coordinated by Ripert. We'll see - watch this site.

* * *

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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