File photo shows Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan.—File Photo

PESHAWAR: The banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has announced that it would support anti-polio vaccination drives on the guarantee that they are not used by the United States as a cover for espionage.

The Pakistani Taliban militants also placed the condition that their apprehensions about the vaccination campaigns being ‘un-Islamic’ are removed.

“If they can convince us that these polio drops are Islamic and the spy agencies are not using it to kill our fighters, we would have no opposition to any vaccination drive which is in the public interest,” TTP spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan told Dawn.com on Friday, speaking via telephone from an undisclosed location.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where the polio virus is still endemic.

Taliban militants in the country’s restive northwest had banned polio vaccinations campaigns after reports revealed that the CIA had used a polio vaccination campaign in Abbottabad run by Dr Tariq Afridi to track down former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Referring to the Abbottabad incident which led to the former al Qaeda chief's capture, Ehsan said vaccination drives were being used by the CIA to hunt down its ‘Mujahideen’.

“Our opposition and suspicion to the vaccination drives increased manifold after the Abbottabad incident,” he said.

“We are ready to support the drive if our apprehensions are removed. We will not oppose it if it is ensured it [polio campaign] is not used for serving the United States and other foreign interests,” he said.

The Taliban spokesman also denied any involvement in previous attacks on polio workers.

“We are not involved in attack on the polio teams and the threats given to them. We do have reservations against the drive but we are not attacking them,” said Ehsanullah. “We will not attack any public welfare institution and non-military installations.”

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