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Talking to Dawn, a senior member and former spokesperson of the TTP, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said that the militant outfit was “in principle” not targeting polio workers.  — File Photo
Talking to Dawn, a senior member and former spokesperson of the TTP, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said that the militant outfit was “in principle” not targeting polio workers. — File Photo

KUNAR: Apparently on feeling growing pressure from the sympathisers of those affected by the crippling polio disease, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has officially distanced itself from some of the recent attacks on polio vaccinators in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi, saying it has nothing to do with these killings.

But at the same time there are some senior members in the organisation who have not ruled out the possibility of involvement of some “hard-liners” or “overzealous” members for such violent actions against the polio workers.

In fact, there are still several hard-liners within the banned militant organisation who openly justify action against polio workers by describing the vaccination campaign as a ‘Jewish conspiracy’ or an ‘espionage campaign’.

Talking to Dawn, a senior member of the TTP, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said that the militant outfit was “in principle” not targeting polio workers. The statement is much in contrast to the situation either some prominent member or one of the affiliated militant outfits had openly claimed responsibility for such attacks or the TTP had decided to remain silent after such killings.

“We have been holding detailed deliberations on the polio issue for some time and have been consulting trustworthy Muslim medical experts. Some of our doubts have been removed,” he said.

For many years, a number of TTP and other clerics had been advocating conspiracy theories, claiming that polio vaccination was a “Jewish conspiracy to suppress Muslim population growth”. Some extremist elements have even justified killing polio workers while accusing them of being “agents of the West”.

According to some TTP insiders, the militant organisation is heading towards an official shift on a number of issues, including polio vaccination.

“The leadership of the TTP has been looking at issues such as disability of children. From an Islamic point of view, you could say that we are no longer opposed to polio vaccinations. Of course we would like children to be protected. But we simply cannot allow vaccinators when we have the case of Shakil Afridi in front of us,” said Maulana Saleh Qassam, editor of TTP’s monthly magazine, who is also regarded within the organisation as a “religious scholar”.

A number of other TTP clerics endorse his views. “We are not considering polio vaccination un-Islamic. We do not consider it right to target polio workers unless we have concrete evidence of their involvement in spying or some other anti-Mujahideen activity,” said Maulvi Khalid Balti, a North Waziristan-based TTP cleric.

However, this school of thought is not going unchallenged within the TTP ranks.

“Unfortunately there are still elements within the TTP who believe in some baseless conspiracy theories. This is particularly true for many foot soldiers,” said Umar Ansari, a university graduate from Islamabad who has moved to the tribal areas and serves as one of the advisers to TTP Mohmand chief Umar Khalid Khorasani.

Lack of knowledge in some cases is not the only challenge.

“It is not always possible to control zealots in cities who are not operating under our direct command,” said Ansari.

According to the World Health Organisation, 80,000 children in Pakistan have not been immunised against polio. About 22,000 of these children hail from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Comments (17) Closed

Polio Team Jan 22, 2014 11:21am

Absurd lie, these guys are not trustworthy for one word. They can sell their children for money, send their little sisters for suicide bombing while cowering in their safe heavens, why in the world they will care about other children.

Ghassan Jan 22, 2014 12:55pm

Weakening and destroying the population, once injection at a time. Enjoy being depopulated.

Karrar Hussain Jan 22, 2014 03:33pm

Yeah and everyday killing of vaccination workers is testimony to this "change of heart"!

Khalid Jan 22, 2014 03:51pm

Can someone in Pakistan not stop these terrorists from killing innocent men, women and children on a daily basis. Stop talking about talking to them and speak the only language they understand. TTP must be eradicated exactly the same way we want to eradicate Polio. They are both diseases that will destroy the future of Pakistan.

Last Word Jan 22, 2014 04:11pm

Imran Khan who had promised to lead the polio campaign must fulfill his commitment made to the people of Pakistan. Whatever the TTP may state, aliens from outer space are not killing the polio workers as well as the security forces who are guarding them.

Sheena Jan 22, 2014 05:39pm

Yet another attempt by TTP to deviate the minds of people like Imran Khan & Nawaz Sharif to not opt the armed operation against them. Feel pity over misguided souls.

GA Jan 22, 2014 05:46pm

If the TTP cannot control its foot soldiers then it should eliminate them. That's what any organization or State would do in face of insubordination

Rao Jan 22, 2014 06:14pm

Could this policy of killing polio-vaccination team members be that of only bad Talibanis and not of good and middle of the road Talibanis?

Eddies Jan 22, 2014 06:23pm

Just last week another TTP/Taliban spokesman said that the TTP never targets civilians?....and another said the TTP never kills Muslims?...the facts from just one week of carnage prove otherwise....these statements should be reported as probable lies and TTP propaganda..which is what they really are...

Amyn Moolji Jan 22, 2014 07:25pm

Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, but if the taliban are truly not against polio vaccinations s they claim to be, why don't they have their own members be trained to administer it? That way they don't need to worry about outside influences and the children still benefit

x Jan 22, 2014 08:27pm

These guys are nuts! "yeah we realized we were wrong after killing so many innocent polio workers, depriving so many innocent kids and creating so much fear and harassment among so many innocent parents and people'. But now 'we are dithering because we dont know what to do and we will just use shakil afridi because hey we need something to cry about and make our agenda'. Every gun needs a target and every target needs a reason behind it so all these foolish nonsesne is nothing more than justifications because killing people has been decided as a goal, now any reason/motivation will do to justify it.

Najma Jan 22, 2014 09:37pm

Even the educated and learned people in most Pakistani cities believe that polio vaccine contains permanent family planning medication. They also believe that the plan is to make females sterile. These are the same people who believe that drinking Pepsi make the girl to get to child bearing age faster. Ask around and you will find many uneducated faith scientist. From gypsies to Vice Chancellors or universities have total faith in rumors. 99.9% of the nation has physiological problems. One good News for People in Pakistan that most Pakistani living outside of Pakistan are not any different. They have the same traits as the original sample.

Adeel Hasan Jan 22, 2014 11:06pm

And what about the hundreds targeted and killed already? Are we going to hold TTP and these enemies of Allah responsible for the many that they've killed already on this issue? Is there going to be any justice done?

Fazal Karim Jan 23, 2014 07:13am

Thank God, there one good news from Taliban. Taliban please think about girls education and allow this and stop demolition of schools.

zack Jan 24, 2014 05:54am

@Amyn Moolji: We need to to eradicate the Talibans once and for all. Tehy are terrorists, hoodlums and ruthless animals as well as cowards.

zack Jan 24, 2014 05:58am

@KhaliPakistan should make friends with India and use all the Army resources to eradicate all the Talibans form the face of the earth. This can be achieved if the politicians are sincere about this issue. NOW IS THE TIME TO ERADICATE THE TALIBANS FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH!!!!

Amin Amdani Jan 25, 2014 01:32am

Guys, look at the people in the picture with news story. Look at them. Those fat and flabby over fed lot. Do they really care about young children who are feeble and get paralyzed when polio attacks them? Yeh talibaan kis chakki ka aata khate hain