Pak premier condemns attack on female polio vaccinators
Islamabad: Hours after gunmen shot and killed five female polio vaccinators, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf condemned the attacks and reiterated the Pakistan government's resolve to rid the country of the crippling disease.
The premier expressed shock at the attacks on polio field workers in Karachi and Peshawar and ordered the Interior Ministry to coordinate with polio eradication authorities to provide fool-proof security to vaccination teams.
The field polio teams had been instrumental in wiping out the disease from the country, he said.
Ashraf directed authorities to conduct an enquiry into the attacks and bring the culprits to book.
"The Prime Minister expressed the resolve the take every step for the complete eradication of polio from the country," said a statement issued by Ashraf's office after he chaired a meeting of the Polio Task Force.
The meeting was held shortly after gunmen shot and killed four women polio vaccinators in three separate attacks in the southern port city of Karachi.
A fifth volunteer, a 14-year-old girl, was shot and killed in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Another male volunteer was gunned down in Karachi last night, taking the total number of polio field workers killed since yesterday to six.
No group claimed responsibility for the attacks but the banned Pakistani Taliban have threatened polio vaccinators in the past.
Pakistani authorities and the World Health Organisation suspended the anti-polio campaign in Karachi and other parts of Sindh province after the attacks.
However, the premier said his government was determined to root out polio from Pakistan, one of only three countries where the disease is endemic.
"We cannot and would not allow polio to wreak havoc on the lives of our children.
Seeking a polio-free life is the fundamental right of our people and we would not allow polio to plague their lives," he said.
"This is the least we owe to our children and we would stay the course unless polio is wiped out from the country," he said.
Figures recently released by the Federal Polio Control Room showed that 998,569 children below the age of five were not covered in an anti-polio campaign conducted during October 15-17. This included nearly 79,000 in the country's largest city of Karachi.
The premier noted that Pakistan had made progress since an anti-polio drive was launched, with the number of cases falling from 20,000 in 1994 to 56 in 2012.
He said the government has involved religious scholars, clerics and parliamentarians in its communication strategy to achieve optimum results in anti-polio campaigns.
Officials told the meeting that 34 million children would be covered under the National Emergency Plan 2013 which will involve over 25,000 workers.