Under pressure: Tribes flay restrictions over polio standoff

Published: December 21, 2012
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Around 0.5 million people are said to have been affected by the decision. PHOTO: FILE

Around 0.5 million people are said to have been affected by the decision. PHOTO: FILE

MIRANSHAH: 

People of the Wazir and Dawar tribes in North Waziristan on Thursday complained that recent restrictions placed on them had deprived them of their basic rights.

On December 17, North Waziristan’s Political Agent Siraj Ahmad Khan acted upon the directives of Additional Chief Secretary of Fata Tashfeen Khan and asked officials to discontinue all benefits given to both tribes until they agree to vaccinate their children against polio.

Around 0.5 million people are said to have been affected by the decision which was taken after a grand jirga convened by the political administration failed to convince the people to be a part of the immunisation drive. The people belong to Mir Ali, Shawal, Speen Wam, Razmak, Dossali, Garhyo, Miranshah, Data Khel and Ghulam Khan areas.

Security forces are currently engaged in vaccinating and providing treatment to women and children suffering from thalassemia, hepatitis B and C, and cancer. Locals questioned why the government has only placed the curbs over their reservations regarding anti-polio vaccines.

They said their children were confronted with other problems because the political agent has stopped verifying documents for passports and domiciles.

“Our children cannot take admission in schools of Peshawar, DI Khan and other parts of the country after the restrictions,” complained one tribesman. “People intending to travel abroad cannot do so after these restrictions.”

On June 15, a senior Taliban commander in North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, banned anti-polio drives in the agency until drone attacks were stopped. He also said that anyone who did not obey these orders would be “held responsible for their actions.”

On June 25, days after the Taliban announced their ban on polio vaccinations in North Waziristan, the Mullah Nazir group in Wana, South Waziristan also banned polio vaccinations in their agency.

In a pamphlet distributed in Wana, they said Dr Shakil Afridi was the doctor who helped the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden by conducting a fake polio vaccination programme in Abbottabad and requested parents in the agency to avoid polio vaccinations until drone strikes are stopped.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2012.

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