Pakistan to persuade Taliban to lift polio ban
Islamabad: Pakistani authorities will make a move to persuade militants in North Waziristan to lift a ban on anti-polio vaccination teams, which was imposed as the militants believe it to be a cover for US spies, officials have said.
Local warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur had banned the anti-polio campaign in North Waziristan, a Taliban and al Qaeda infested region bordering Afghanistan.
"We have requested the governor of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to direct the political agent (administrator) of North Waziristan to open a dialogue with this group," The Dawn quoted a senior government official, as saying.
Bahadur, who is allied with Afghan Taliban fighting US-led troops across the border, said the ban would remain until the US stops drone attacks in the tribal region.
"On one hand they are killing innocent women, children and old people in drone attacks and on the other hand they are spending millions on vaccination campaign," he said.
"The federal government has told the governor to use all available means to ensure that the polio campaigns in the tribal area are not disrupted for the sake of tribal children in particular and Pakistan in general," the official said.
A senior health official said authorities are concerned about the safety of the vaccination teams in North Waziristan.
"With a vaccination campaign coming up this week, we are concerned for over 161,000 children under five in the area who require the polio vaccination, many of whom have never been vaccinated even once against this crippling disease," he said.
"We are also very concerned for the safety of front line polio workers who, despite great personal risk, work to ensure every child is vaccinated," he added.
Pakistan is one of just three countries where polio remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria.