In order to convince insurgents in the tribal areas to lift a ban on polio vaccination campaigns imposed in protest at US drone attacks, Pakistani officials decided to hold talks with the Taliban.
Last week, local militant leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur put a ban on the anti-polio campaign in North Waziristan.
An official while speaking to the media observed, “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 Taliban commander, who is associated with Afghan militants fighting US-led troops across the border, announced that they would not allow anti-police campaigns in the tribal region until US stops drones strikes.
In a statement issued in Miranshah, he noted, “On the one hand they are killing innocent women, children and old people in drone attacks and on the other they are spending millions on vaccination campaign”.
However, the concerned official was of the opinion that it was priority of the government to vaccinate all children in the tribal region.
Replying to a query 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”.
Another official from health department said they were worried about the safety of vaccination teams in the areas.
He said that they were concerned for over 161, 000 children under five in the area who require the polio vaccination. In his view, many children of the area have never been vaccinated even once against this crippling disease.
At the same time, he said, they are very concerned for the safety of the front line polio workers who work for betterment of the society, setting aside their personal risks.
It is vital to mention here that Pakistan is one of just three countries where polio remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. The highly infectious disease affects mainly the under-fives and can cause paralysis in a matter of hours. Some cases can be fatal.