Dozens of tribal elders attended a grand jirga convened on Saturday by President Mamnoon Hussain in a bid to drum up broader support for polio vaccination in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
It is the first time that a grand jirga has been convened on the resurfacing of poliovirus in Pakistan and its ultimate eradication. Tribal support is considered crucial in the fight against the disease.
“It is unfortunate that Pakistan is still on the list of countries where poliovirus poses a real threat to future generations,” the president told the grand jirga at the Governor House in Peshawar.
The president said the presence of poliovirus in Pakistan, especially in Fata, was a matter of grave concern. Of the total 85 polio cases in the country, 60 were in Fata, he said ruefully. He called upon the tribal people to wage a collective fight against the crippling disease.
The president announced a slew of schemes for made several announcements, including the induction 2,500 levies force personnel in the tribal areas; setting up of a Rs100 million Shuhada Package for civilians; and a sum of Rs100 million for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The president said he had instructed the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL) to devise a plan for the provision of natural gas to the tribal agencies and the Frontier Regions with the collaboration of the Fata Secretariat so that this basic utility could be supplied to these areas at the earliest.
Announcing the upgrading of the Boys Degree College in Landi Kotal, he indicated that Jamrud Degree College would also be upgraded.
Announcing other incentives for the tribal people, he said 10 students hailing from the tribal belt would be given scholarships to pursue their studies in federal universities.
He also announced the establishment of a general hospital and directed the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation to train 300 young tribal people so that they could benefit from the overseas job opportunities.
The jirga was also addressed by K-P Governor Engineer Shaukatullah Khan, Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch and Adviser to the Prime Minister Amir Muqam and tribal elders.
Polio can be eradicated, he said, through joint efforts and effective mass awareness drives. “Religious scholars throughout the Muslim world have justified the administration of anti-polio drops being in line with the religious teachings. Pakistani scholars also support the campaign, so it is the responsibility of all to make this drive a success.”
The president expressed his optimism that the jirga – which was attended by a large number of tribal elders and notables – would be a step in that direction and all the tribesmen would fully support the polio drive.“Today we have gathered here to join hands in the fight against the crippling disease through a well-devised strategy to save the future of our generations,” the president said.
Tribal sacrifices acknowledged
Describing Pakistan as a great gift, he said it is the responsibility of everyone to contribute to its progress and prosperity. The president asked the tribesmen to manifest such spirit of patriotism which was shown by them during the Pakistan Movement.
He recalled the sacrifices offered by the tribal people for the country.
“The tribal people always stood for the country’s solidarity and development and their devotion has always been exemplary,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2014.