Pakistani Taliban willing to back polio vaccination
Islamabad: The Pakistani Taliban has said they will back the government's polio vaccination program if they are guaranteed it will not be used to mask a US espionage campaign. "We're not opposed to any vaccination if we are convinced that the dose for polio is allowed by Islam and that espionage agents are not using it to kill our militants," Taliban spokesman Ehsanula Eshan told Dawn television. "This is in the public interest," he said.
Since last December, a series of attacks against vaccination teams has taken a score of lives. The most recent attack occurred Wednesday in the northwestern town of Mardan, where a police officer was slain while escorting a vaccination team. The Taliban spokesman denied Friday that his movement was involved in those attacks, but recalled that insurgents are suspicious of the vaccination programs.
The CIA organized a fake vaccination campaign against hepatitis B in order to find Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US special forces May 2, 2011, during a raid on the Al Qaeda leader's home in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. "Our opposition and suspicion toward vaccination programs intensified after what happened at Abbottabad," the insurgent chief said.
"We're ready to accept the campaigns if our distrust can be allayed. We won't oppose them if we are guaranteed they will not be used to serve US or any other foreign interests," he said. Pakistan is one of only three countries - Afghanistan and Nigeria are the others - where polio is still endemic.