Local Taliban chief (Ameer) in North Waziristan Hafiz Gul Bahadar, on June 16th 2012, announced a ban of anti-polio campaign until the end of US drone attacks. “On the one hand they are killing innocent women, children and old people in drone attacks while on the other, they are spending millions on vaccination campaign,” said a leaflet distributed in Mir Ali and Miranshah, both the main towns of the restive North Waziristan Agency.
Following the ban in North Waziristan, similar pamphlets were distributed by Taliban in another adjacent agency of South Waziristan a week later, issuing almost the same threats to the people of North Waziristan. These pamphlets were issued from Wana Taliban chief Mulla Nazir who is considered as a close ally of Hafiz Gul Bahadar of North Waziristan as both of them belong to the same tribe of Wazir.
Ban on Polio vaccination in NWA and SWA till the end of drone attacks, is a dilemma for the common people of North and South Waziristan who on one hand cannot administer anti polio drops to their kids and on the other hands they are totally powerless to stop drone attacks conducted by US in Pakistan tribal areas especially NWA and SWA. According to Dr. Sadiq Dawar, 160,000 kids are less than five years of age in NWA and more than 80,000 kids in SWA were their target to vaccinate against polio that remained unaccomplished. Doctors have frequently expressed their concern that ‘one unvaccinated child’ means you put 20 more on risk, as polio virus in one kid can infect twenty kids in the nearest area. Both North and South Waziristan are highly at risk regarding polio as more than 17 cases have been verified only in North Waziristan in the last two years in spite of the frequent polio vaccination rounds every month regularly.
On contrary to expectation of people, US planes hit three houses in Shawal and Data Khell areas of North Waziristan on 26th June, 1st July and 6th July 2012 killing at least 32 people in these missile attacks. Reports exist that UN has pressurized US to stops drone attacks as it will affect the ongoing campaign against polio which if left uncontrolled in NWA and SWA. It can affect Khyber Pakhtoon Khwa and even more areas of Pakistan. Thus eradication of the menace of polio will become nothing more than a dream while WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF are spending billions of dollars on eradication of polio from three countries of the world i.e. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
On one hand it is also a fact that drone attacks in tribal areas with North Waziristan in specific, has affected badly the routine life of the tribesmen who has nothing to do with the so called war on terror going on in the area. The drone are allegedly targeting militants but at the same time are being blamed for becoming spies of US. The plight of tribesmen is that they dwelling in the area which has practically become a battle field for various forces unknown to most of the tribal people.
Presence of local and non -local militants in the area is a fact but it is also a fact that the common tribal men cannot evacuate the area from them as they have gain relatively powerful during the course of time since 9/11. Power of the local militants can be measured from the fact that they can ban anti-polio campaign while the local administration can do nothing. Common folk of agencies in persisting circumstances neither can force militants to lift ban to vaccinate their kids against polio nor can they pressure US to stop Drone attacks. So they have become prey to circumstances. Pakistani health authorities have digested a huge sum of dollars in the past polio campaigns but all in vain and Polio is still as wild as was ten years back. Some people would blame local tribesmen for not cooperating with the polio staff as it has been observed that where polio teams do not want to go (often to the remote areas like Shawal, Data Khel, Bermal etc) they simply blame the local people that they refused to administer polio drops to their children while the fact is not the same.
Bann on anti polio campaign by the local militants since 16th June this year marked big question on the writ of the government on hand while speaks volumes of subjection of local tribesmen on the other. What is the fault of a kid that is not being immunized against Polio virus? A question mark for the government, UN, US and other humanitarian organizations which are silent on the issue! In words of an aggrieved tribesman, “We have to wait and throw our kids in the asylum of God as there is no way out of it”. Keeping in view the overall situation in North and South Waziristan, it seems that Ban on polio drops can spread to the other tribal areas as well. The local people can pray for the safety of their kids only as they are trapped between the dwell and the deep see, local militants on side and US drone attacks on the other.