Supporters of Hafiz Gul Bahadur - the leader of a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan faction in North Waziristan - on Saturday handed out pamphlets in Miran Shah, the capital of North Waziristan, threatening anyone involved in an ongoing polio vaccination campaign in the troubled region. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world were the polio virus is endemic.
An Urdu-language pamphlet entitled Mas’ul-o-Khadimul Mujahideen and handed out in the town said: "We announce a ban on polio vaccination campaign from today (Saturday)", and warned local residents that "violators will have no right to register a complaint if they are harmed".
The reason? "Chief of the Shura-e-Mujahideen, North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur sahab, has decided in consultation with his shura (council) to impose a ban on polio vaccination unless drone strikes are stopped in Waziristan," the pamphlet said. A spokesman for the faction later said that the impact of the drone campaign was worse than the spread of polio.
It also added that another reason for the ban was fear of espionage, mentioning the case of Shakeel Afridi, the government doctor who was recently given a 33-year prison term after being arrested for helping the CIA track Osama bin Laden last year.
"The well-wishers (the US) spend billions of rupees on the polio vaccination campaign. They know that polio could affect only a few among hundreds of thousands of people. At the same time, the well-wishers (the US), with the help of their Pakistani slaves, are carrying out drone strikes. As a result, hundreds of our Waziristani innocent children, women and aged men have been martyred," the pamphlet said.
"That is why we have announced a ban on polio vaccinations," it added.
This must be the most original form of protest ever thought up. Allow your sons and daughters to be infected by a deadly disease that will handicap them for life as a protest against drone strikes! How will the people of North Waziristan ever be able to thank Hafiz Gul Bahadur enough?