PESHAWAR: After North Waziristan, the Taliban in South Waziristan also banned the anti-polio vaccination campaign to protest the US drone attacks and asked the local administration to stay away from the immunization drive.
The Taliban led by Maulvi Nazeer circulated leaflets in Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan, announcing the ban on the anti-polio immunization in the militancy-torn tribal region.
Dr Mohammad Rafiq, Unicef focal person for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), feared that 80,000 children would suffer if the anti-polio campaign was stopped in South Waziristan.
If the local Taliban continued to ban the immunisation, the government would not be able to vaccinate 241,000 children, including 161,000 in North Waziristan and 80,000 in South Waziristan during the three-day anti-polio campaign scheduled to commence from July 17.
Like North Waziristan, South Waziristan has recorded one polio case this year, and the virus is believed to be quite active there due to a host of reasons.Dr Rafiq said Pakistan had recorded 22 polio cases this year including 11 in Fata. Nine of those case were in Khyber Agency.
Several reasons are considered behind unsatisfactory performance of polio teams including poor law and order situation, threats from militants, corruption and lack of interest of the authorities concerned and their failure to check the work of vaccinators.
In the leaflet, the Taliban said the United States by funding the anti-polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan intended to serve its vested interest. It said they did not expect any good from the United State after the CIA recruited a Pakistani doctor, Shakeel Afridi to track down Osama bin Laden and his family members in Abbottabad by running a fake anti-polio campaign.
Dr Shakil Afridi has been convicted and imprisoned for 33 years by the assistant political agent, Bara subdivision under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).
Though the drones carried out quite a few missile strikes in South Waziristan this year, it seemed the Taliban there got the idea from their fellow fighters in the neighbouring North Waziristan where the militants led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur first banned anti-polio vaccination campaign as a protest over frequent drone strikes.
This strategy of the militants may not help stop drone strikes as nine unmanned spy planes were seen flying at low altitude over Miranshah, Mir Ali and other villages in North Waziristan on Monday. The ban on anti-polio campaign by Pakistani Taliban has drawn attention of national and international donors.
The federal government has expressed serious concern over the ban on anti-polio and urged Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Masood Kausar to open dialogue with the militant group for resuming the anti-polio campaign in the volatile tribal region.
Shahnaz Wazir Ali, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Programme recently sent a letter to the governor and showed serious concern over the ban on anti-polio campaign in North Waziristan.
Efforts were made to seek comment of the political agent of South Waziristan about the Taliban ban on polio campaign, but he could not be approached.