Taliban renounces war on anti-polio workers from:
The Telegraph - Zubair Babakarkhail in Kabul and Dean Nelson in
New Delhi -3:02PM BST 13 May 2013
The Taliban has ended its war on polio vaccination workers and
admitted immunization is the only way to protect children from
the disease, its leadership said in a statement issued today.
The announcement comes just weeks after the Afghan government
launched a new campaign to immunise more than eight million
children between six monthsand five years old throughout the
country. It said it had trained 46,000 volunteers to conduct the
campaign which is funded by the American aid agency
USAID, the World Health Organisation and Unicef.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the three remaining
countries in the world where polio remains a serious threat,
but efforts to eradicate the disease have been
sabotaged by the Taliban and other Islamic militants who have
assassinated immunisation volunteers in all three countries.
Eleven polio workers were killed in Pakistan last year,
including five women who were shot dead in Karachi in December
last year. Earlier this year a police officer protecting vaccination
campaigners was shot by motorcycle gunmen in Khyber
Pukhtunkhwa. In Afghanistan, a 16 year old girl involved
in an anti-polio vaccination campaign in Kapisa province was shot
six times in the stomach outside her home last December
and died later in hospital. In March this year the Afghan
government was forced to abandon its polio vaccination
campaign in Nuristan province where, it said, Taliban
opposition had made it impossible.
Opposition to the vaccination programme has been driven
by conservative clerics who claim it is a plot to sterilise
Muslim children, and Taliban commanders who fear
it is being used to gather intelligence in their strongholds.
Those fears increased following the 2011 killing of al-Qaeda
leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad
where Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi was arrested for running
a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign to help the CIA collect
DNA samples of members of the bin Laden family.
But in a sudden U-turn the Taliban leadership issued a
statement offering its support for polio eradication campaigns as
long as foreigners were not involved and that all volunteers respected
local Islamic culture. "According to the latest international medicine
science, the polio disease can onlybe cured by preventive measures
ie the anti-polio drops and the vaccination of children
against this disease. "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan supports
and lends a hand to all those programs which works for the health
care of the helpless people of our country," said a stament
issued by the 'Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan'.
But it warned the World Health Organisation and Unicef to employ
only "unbiased people"in a campaign "harmonised with the regional
conditions, Islamic values and local cultural traditions."
It also ordered its fighters to give polio workers "all necessary support".
Mohammad Younas Fakor, an independent political analyst, said the
move was aimed at boosting its popularity among Afghans as the
withdrawal of foreign troops draws closer. "I think the Taliban looks
towards 2014, and they know that they will not have any other
option rather than coming to the political process," he said.