Murphy's Law: TalibanCare

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March 4, 2008: While the mass media likes to play up the possibility of the Taliban once again ruling Afghanistan, that is unlikely to happen for some very fundamental reasons. Mainly, there are not that many Afghans who share Taliban beliefs. The Taliban have always been a small group of religious fanatics pushing the religious and social customs of a few Pushtun tribes in southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan. As an example of how that does not work, consider a recent incident in Pakistan. Near the Afghan border, in one of the most pro-Taliban parts of the tribal territories, a pro-Taliban tribal leader made some demands of the director of one of the few hospitals in the area. The Taliban were upset that male doctors were treating female patients. This had to stop. Instead, female nurses could examine female patients, and then pass messages to male doctors. Because of Taliban prohibitions against education for women, there aren't many female nurses or doctors from the pro-Taliban tribes. But most of the Pushtuns want their kids to get an education, both boys and girls. In the few pro-Taliban areas, medical personnel have to be brought in from elsewhere.

The pro-Taliban clerics and tribal elders try to coerce the hospital staff to do things the Taliban way. This rarely works. For example, this recent incident in the Bajaur tribal district, included demands that the hospital provide free medicine for poor patients, not perform unnecessary tests, or recommend expensive drugs. The hospitals operate on a shoestring, and don't have the money to operate the Taliban way. Yet the Taliban tell the medical staff that if they do not cooperate, the Taliban cannot "guarantee their safety." This is how hospitals in Taliban territory lose their staff. The less zealous locals often get into gun battles with the hard core Taliban over issues like this. The doctors and nurses, in the meantime, get on the Internet and check job opportunities in Europe and North America.

 


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