Pakistani tribesmen and clerics in North Waziristan have fallen in line behind Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and are endorsing the ban on polio vaccinations for children. Last month, Bahadar had insisted that the vaccination campaign be stopped until the US ends the drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas (his stand against vaccinations was backed by Mullah Nazir, a top Taiban leader in South Waziristan). Now the tribal leaders in north Waziristan are echoing the Taiban party line. From Dawn:
“Polio vaccination will be banned until drone attacks are stopped,” tribal elder Qadir Khan told a gathering of more than 200 elders and Islamic scholars in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan.
“Drones martyr so many children, while polio afflicts one or two out of hundreds of thousands,” said tribal elder Maamoor Khan.
North Waziristan administrator Siraj Ahmed Khan said he had sought to convince the tribesmen to accept the vaccinations for the disease, which leaves children crippled for life.
“Polio is rampant in tribal areas and government desires to prevent its spread,” Khan told the meeting.
Support for Bahadar’s position from the tribal leaders and mullahs should come as no surprise. The Taliban have killed all of the tribal leaders who opposed them and coopted those who remained. North Waziristan remains in the firm grip of the Taliban, and the Pakistani government and military, despite years of promises to clear the tribal area of the Taliban and al Qaeda via “stealth offensives” and other such nonsense, will do nothing to resolve the problem.
This is why the unpopular drone strikes remain the only game in town for the US to keep al Qaeda at bay in Waziristan. But the drones do not deal with the problems of al Qaeda and allied groups operating beyond the North and South Waziristan ‘kill boxes’ where the drones are confined; these Islamist terror groups are pervasive throughout Pakistan. And the drones don’t deal with the wider issues of al Qaeda’s virulent ideology, state support for Islamist terror groups, and the terror groups’ ability to exploit ungoverned spaces (see Mali and Syria for the latest iterations).
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