LANDI KOTAL: For tribal people, boycotting the polio drive appears to have become an easy negotiation tactic to pressurise the government into fulfilling their demands to solve the power crisis.
On Monday, members of Khyber Agency’s Zakhakhel announced their refusal to vaccinate their children against polio until the government resolves the problem of incessant power outages.
The move comes days after tribal elders in North Waziristan Agency vowed to continue boycotting polio vaccination drives until the government provides electricity to the region, saying that they had been deprived of electricity for 30 years.
Zakhakhel tribesmen staged a protest and blocked the Pak-Afghan Highway for traffic in Landi Kotal sub-division of Khyber Agency. The protesters, most of whom hailed from the Sultankhel area, held black flags and carried empty pitchers to draw the political administration’s attention that they were not getting water.
They chanted full-throated slogans against the administration and threatened to close down schools across the agency and block the Pak-Afghan Highway if the duration of power suspension was not reduced.
Tribal elder Shakir Afridi, while addressing the protesters, said that the area’s people mostly depended on water from tube-wells, which cannot be operated due to power cuts.
“We are facing a Karbala-like situation, as there is no water supply for the last several days,” he said, referring to the historical battle of Karbala.
Other tribal elders, including Malik Abdullah Khan Afridi, Ghafoor Haideri and Zrawar Khan Afridi also addressed the protesters and pointed out that last month, they had boycotted the polio drive and power outages were stopped only to begin once vaccination ended. This time, they said, we demand a permanent end.
Electricity before vaccination
During Saturday’s jirga in North Waziristan, the elders accused the local political administration of siphoning off Rs34 million that had been set aside for the provision of a new electricity line to the region.
The grand jirga was attended by members of the Asad Khel, Dhur Dhanee, Muskee and Dosalee tribes.
“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 fulfils our demand,” Khan said.
The political administration of North Waziristan said that it could not take any action against the tribe until a new political agent was appointed.
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