KHAR, Pakistan — Some 300,000 villagers impoverished by fighting in Pakistan’s tribal belt are scrambling to feed themselves after a female suicide bomber killed 45 people outside a World Food Program food distribution center, triggering a districtwide suspension of the relief project.
Pakistan said the attack is a sign of insurgent desperation, but the bombing and ongoing battles challenge the government’s declaration of victory over Al Qaeda and the Taliban in this part of the porous northwest border.
Shahab Khan, district coordinator for the World Food Program, said yesterday that all four food relief centers run by the United Nations agency in the Bajur district had been shut indefinitely since Saturday’s bombing in the area’s main town of Khar.
The project in Bajur feeds 41,000 families, or 300,000 people, who returned to the district from camps for the displaced elsewhere in the country, even though their livelihoods have been ruined by fighting between Pakistani troops and insurgents.
Painda Khan, a 48-year-old farmer who abandoned his crops months ago, said his family of 11 was now desperate for their rations of rice, flour, lentils, cooking oil, and high-energy biscuits that he had been going to pick up today.
“We have been borrowing food from neighbors for the last five days,’’ said Khan, adding that his family last received supplies Nov. 25.
Gul Karim Khan, 53, who provides for a family of 10, also found himself without options after the closing of the supply centers.
“We don’t have any idea what we will do in the days ahead if we don’t get aid,’’ he said.