ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s religious affairs minister Maulana Abdul Shakoor threatened to boycott polio vaccination campaign in the country’s tribal districts in a recent video clip if the provincial administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and security institutions failed to protect people amid rising militant activity in the region.
The minister’s warning came just a few weeks after a local leader of his political faction, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), was gunned down in North Waziristan tribal district.
His statement mentioned the anti-polio campaign in the country where 13 cases of the virus have so far been recorded since the beginning of the year.
Among these cases, 12 were reported from North Waziristan district.
“We want to make it clear that if the government and security institutions fail to provide us peace, the people of [former] Federally Administered Tribal Areas will not accept the government’s activities and boycott polio [vaccination],” the minister said in the video clip.
It is not clear when the statement was recorded.
The federal government has also not reacted to the development, though it threatens to undermine the anti-polio drives which are routinely carried out across the country to immunize millions of children.
Militants have targeted dozens of health workers administering polio drops in Pakistan where many parents routinely refuse to get their children inoculated against the crippling disease.
The recent polio cases have dealt a blow to the South Asian nation’s efforts to eradicate the disease which can cause severe paralysis in children.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic. In 2021, Pakistan reported only one case, raising hopes it was close to eradicating the disease.