Pakistani Taliban Stops Polio Vaccinations

by Nathaniel Botwinick

Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a Taliban commander in northern Waziristan, has banned polio vaccinations in his region until CIA drone strikes cease. Over 161,000 children were due to be vaccinated in the coming days.

Mr. Bahadur said the decision had been taken by the shura-e-mujahedeen, a council that unites the myriad jihadi factions in the area, including the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Punjabi extremists.

The announcement, made over the weekend, is a blow to polio vaccination efforts in Pakistan, which is one of just three countries where the disease is still endemic and which accounted for 198 new cases last year — the highest rate in the world.

The tribal belt, which has suffered decades of poverty and conflict, is the largest reservoir of the disease. A Unicef spokesman said health workers had hoped to reach 161,000 children younger than five in a vaccination drive scheduled to begin Wednesday.

The Taliban claim, and may even believe, the U.S. would try to spy on them during the vaccinations, because Dr. Afridi, the doctor who helped find bin Laden, was involved in a different polio-vaccination campaign.

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