While Pakistan is still struggling to eradicate the crippling polio virus, a top pro-government warlord in the North Waziristan tribal agency has banned vaccinations in the region saying the healthcare drive was a cover for US spies.
The announcement was made by warlord Hafiz Gul, who has a non-aggression treaty with Pakistani authorities and who, the United States, believes is playing host to the Haqqani network – the deadly Taliban group blamed for most violence in neighbouring Afghanistan.
“As long as drone strikes are not stopped in Waziristan there will be a ban on administering polio jabs,” Bahadur said in pamphlets distributed in Miramshah.
The decision was taken by the Higher Council of Mujahideen in consultation with other members, it adds. “No one will have the right to complain about damage in case of any violation.”
A copy of the pamphlet, titled Mas’ul-o-Khadimul Mujahideen, is available with The Express Tribune.
It says the people of Waziristan do not require help from the United States which, on the one hand, is spending billions of dollars on eradicating polio, while killing innocent tribesmen on the other hand.
“Polio infects one child in a million, but hundreds of Waziri women, children and elders have been killed in drone strikes,” it adds and blames Pakistan’s government for being hand in glove with the US.
The pamphlet cites the case of Shakil Afridi, the doctor who might have helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden through a vaccination drive in Abbottabad, last year.
“Polio campaigns are also used to spy for America against the Mujahideen, one example of which is Dr Shakil Afridi,” it says. Pakistan is one of the few countries that still harbours the polio virus, including a strain found nowhere else in Asia, but some clerics have condemned the vaccine, putting thousands of people off vaccinating their children
Electricity before vaccination
Meanwhile, tribal elders in North Waziristan vowed to continue boycotting polio vaccination drives until the government electrifies the region.
The boycott was announced at a grand jirga of Asad Khel, Dhur Dhanee, Muskee and Dosalee tribes on Saturday.
The elders said they have been deprived of electricity for the past 30 years. They accused the local political administration of siphoning off Rs34million set aside for the provision of a new electricity line to the region.
“We have been without electricity for the last 30 years and the government is ignoring the problem. They have not bothered to look into the matter despite repeated requests and protests. We have no option but to boycott vaccination drives,” an elder of Dhur Dhanee tribe, Malik Mashal Khan, told The Express Tribune, “Our children die of scorching heat and mosquito bites, what difference does it make if they die of polio? We will continue our boycott until the government fulfills our demand,” Khan said. The political administration of North Waziristan told The Express Tribune that it could not take any action against the tribe until a new political agent was appointed.
(Additional reporting by Zulfiqar Ali in D I Khan)
Published In The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2012.