Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government promises action against polio vaccination spoilers

In this file photo, a Pakistani health worker administers a polio vaccination to a child during a polio immunizations campaign in Peshawar on Feb. 2, 2014. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2019
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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government promises action against polio vaccination spoilers

  • Traders in Bannu, one of province’s worst-hit districts, had earlier refused to administer drops to protest new taxes, call off boycott
  • Provincial Information Minister says government will ensure polio teams reach every child no matter the obstacles

PESHAWAR: The government of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province warned on Tuesday it would take strict action against anyone misusing the anti-polio drive just days after traders in Bannu, a district worst hit by the virus, refused to allow the administering of polio drops to protest new taxes.
Pakistan’s polio eradication campaign has hit serious snags in recent months, with an alarming spike in reported cases that has raised doubts over the quality of vaccination reporting and prompted officials to review their approach to stopping the crippling disease.
The country is one of only three in the world where polio is endemic, along with neighboring Afghanistan and Nigeria, but vaccination campaigns have cut the disease sharply, with only a dozen cases last year compared with 306 in 2014 and more than 350,000 in 1988, according to Pakistani health officials.
However, there has been a worrying jump this year, with 53 new cases recorded, 32 of them in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“Senseless people who are misusing the anti-polio drive for their personal interests, the government will take action against them and we will not spare them,” Provincial Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai told Arab News. “Polio is no less a threat than terrorism. We will make our province and our country polio-free the way we won the war against terrorism.”
“Despite being a nuclear power, do you want Pakistan to stand with Nigeria and Afghanistan [as countries where polio persists]?” Yousafzai asked. “Never ever. We will ensure polio teams reach every child.”
A new round of vaccinations is scheduled to be launched from August 26 to September 1 in 24 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Bannu, said Kamran Afridi, the coordinator of the Emergency Operation Center for polio eradication. Around 30 polio cases out of 32 reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa this year have emerged in Bannu.
Afridi said following the recent announcement of protests by traders in Bannu traders, all District Coordination Officers had been directed to engage the community and launch awareness campaigns. 
On August 18, traders in Bannu, a district to the volatile North Waziristan tribal district, threatened to boycott anti-polio drives to build pressure on the government to reverse “heavy taxes’” levied on small businesses. Although the boycott has since been called off, it highlights the complexity of Pakistan’s anti-polio campaign. 
“We have called off our polio boycott but we had to announce the boycott just to get the government’s attention to reverse unprecedented increase in taxes,” Shah Wazir, president of the Bannu Chamber of Commerce, said.


PM Khan reaches US on crown prince's special plane

Updated 25 min 12 sec ago
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PM Khan reaches US on crown prince's special plane

  • Khan’s media adviser praises the crown prince for his 'magnanimous' gesture
  • Says the country is respected in the Muslim world and Khan is viewed as a statesman

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s media adviser on Sunday praised the “magnanimous” gesture of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who stopped the Pakistani premier from using a commercial airliner to fly to the United States and arranged a special plane for him to go to New York.
“This happens in bilateral relations,” Iftikhar Durrani told Arab News. “Prime Minister Imran Khan went to Saudi Arabia on a commercial flight. It was the magnanimity of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman that he offered a special plane to him for his travel from Saudi Arabia to the United States.”
Durrani added that both leaders were charismatic and liked each other.
“There is a lot in common between the prime minister and the Saudi crown prince,” he continued. “When the Saudi leader visited Islamabad, he said that the Kingdom wanted to work with Pakistan for a while but was waiting for such leadership. So they have a chemistry. They like each other.”
The prime minister’s adviser maintained that Pakistan was respected in the Muslim world and Khan was widely viewed as a statesman.
“This offer of special plan was a good gesture,” he said. “You should also keep in mind that the crown prince is from the royal family and thinks like a king. So he offered the special plane to his guest who arrived on a commercial flight.”
The prime minister arrived in New York on Saturday to participate in the 74th session of United Nations General Assembly where he hopes to bring international attention to the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir after New Delhi’s decision last month to revoke the limited constitutional autonomy for the disputed Himalayan region.
Durrani informed that the PM would take a commercial flight while returning home since “he is always concerned about public money.”