The tribal Maliks of Sra Khona area of lower Orakzai Agency, have boycotted the anti-polio campaign indefinitely till the political administration will address their problems. Malik Alamgir, in a press conference threatened that if the government failed to release their arrested colleagues and reopen the road passing through the disputed mountains, they would also commit self-immolation in front of the press club. Even though, the dispute over mountains had been resolved he government has banned the tribesmen from using the route for travel. Self immolation is one thing, but putting ones children in harms way is quite another. The priorities of the tribal elders are alarming, if they feel they can damage the government by holding their own children hostage.

Afghanistan and Pakistan now remain the only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic. A UNICEF health official however has delivered optimistic news, claiming that we may be declared a ‘non- endemic country for polio virus’ by next year, citing that there is an over 85 per cent reduction in recorded polio cases in 2015. This achievement became possible with the support of the military, especially due to improvement in security after launching of military operation Zarb-e-Azb. If that is the case, then this boycott by the tribal chiefs should be immediately tackled rather than simply waiting for it to run its natural course.

The main reason behind the rise in number of polio cases from 2005 to 2014 was inaccessibility of health teams in tribal areas where hundreds of thousands of children were missed from immunization resulting in contamination of disease. Much of the effort that goes into the eradication of polio is dependable on external factors like militancy and illiteracy. Nigeria, once stigmatised as the world’s polio epicenter, celebrated its first year with no reported case of the crippling disease, having overcome obstacles ranging from Islamic extremists who assassinated vaccinators to rumors the vaccine was a plot to sterilise Muslims. We are now faced with the same instability and resistance, one that can cost us the future of eradication polio once and for all.

Now with the army driving out the militants from the tribal areas and the commitment from the Ulema to cooperate with the government to create awareness about polio vaccinations, progress is being made. If we take threats by tribal and political chiefs seriously, making an effort to collaborate with them on welfare, rather than blatantly ignoring, Pakistan might just become polio free.