Islamabad: A powerful Pakistani Taliban faction has said it will not allow an anti-polio campaign to be conducted in its stronghold of North Waziristan tribal region as long as US drone strikes continue in the area.

The group led by commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur distributed a pamphlet on Saturday that announced the ban on the government's polio vaccination campaign.

The ban has raised concerns about the spread of polio in a region with poor healthcare facilities, and local tribesmen said they had no option but to accept the Taliban's directive.

The pamphlet in Urdu, distributed in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, said: "We announce a ban on polio vaccination campaign from Saturday."

It warned local residents that "violators will have no right to register a complaint if they are harmed".

"Chief of the Shura-e-Mujahideen, North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadar 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.

Defending the ban, the Taliban faction said the impact of the drone campaign was worse than the spread of polio.

The pamphlet cited fears of espionage as another reason for the ban and mentioned 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.

The day and night flights of the US unmanned spy planes have made almost every Waziristan resident "psychologically sick" and this situation was worse than the spread of polio, the pamphlet claimed.

"That is why we have announced a ban on polio vaccinations," the pamphlet said.

There was no official word on the Taliban ban as political authorities in North Waziristan Agency have little say in running the affairs of the region, which US and Afghan officials have described as a safe haven for Taliban and Al Qaeda elements.


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