Fighting disease: Gilani blames refugees for polio spread

Published: October 30, 2011

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani talking to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth-II during a dinner hosted by the Queen in honour of heads of states. PHOTO:PPI

PERTH: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has sought the international community’s help to shift three million Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan back to Afghanistan in order to curb illegal cross-border movement, and to help Islamabad prevent the spread of polio.

“They (Afghan refugees) need to return … the relief centres have to be in Afghanistan,” Gilani said while addressing a joint conference at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHGM) with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Saturday.

Gillard invited a select group of heads of state and government from countries where polio is still prevalent, along with those who are funding campaigns for the eradication of the crippling disease.

Pakistan managed to eliminate the disease but it had resurfaced in the past seven years, with 132 new cases being reported, Premier Gilani said. “The situation is unacceptable,” he said. “We launched a national emergency action plan for polio eradication and to interrupt the transmission of the virus in Pakistan by the end of 2011.”

Attributing the resurfacing of polio to cross-border movement, he said it was difficult to administer vaccination to children living in camps and villages in the “inhospitable” terrain along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

It’s difficult for Pakistan to monitor illegal movement along the over 2,000 kilometres-long border with Afghanistan and that’s what is preventing Pakistan from eradicating the disease completely.

Over 40,000 people cross the Pak-Afghan border daily. Polio remains endemic in four countries, three of which are members of the Commonwealth – India, Nigeria – Pakistan, besides Afghanistan.

Gilani also pointed towards the influence of extremist elements in these areas who he said were preventing the administration of the vaccine. The Pakistani government is seeking help from religious scholars in order to convince the “fanatics” about the importance of vaccine, he said.

Pakistan is launching a three-day campaign every three months to administer anti-polio drops to 33 million children across the country, Gilani said, adding that the government was committed to the cause and had designated Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, daughter of President Asif Ali Zardari, as the goodwill ambassador.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2011.

Reader Comments (37)

  • Oct 29, 2011 - 7:11PM

    So much for your love for the Afghans!

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  • Salman
    Oct 29, 2011 - 7:36PM

    Why don’t this India give refugee to their beloved Afghan brothers ? Pakistan, with the help of UN should arrange trucks to deport about 1 million Afghan refugees to India, where they can live like for as many years as they want it. Let India prove their loooveeee for Afghanis.

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  • Agha
    Oct 29, 2011 - 7:57PM

    @Priyanka feel free to take them :)

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  • Sam
    Oct 29, 2011 - 8:03PM

    what it got to do with afghan refugees? pakistan had this problem before afghan refugees came in.

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  • MarkH
    Oct 29, 2011 - 8:11PM

    I don’t think he knows what he’s saying. You don’t contain a virus by telling the people to scatter so it can spread.

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  • Bingo
    Oct 29, 2011 - 8:33PM

    Poor Afghans- to take the blame on their shoulders!

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  • Saim Baig
    Oct 29, 2011 - 8:37PM

    @ Piyanka

    Afghan refugees have been in Pakistan since 1980s. We treat them as brothers. Some of them have Pakistani nationality now. We felt very bad when Afghan President said that all our problem are are due to Pakistan & we will not support Pakistan when any country attacks it. So its a man speaking out of anger rather then wisdom (which i don’t agree with). We love Afghanistan & all countries of the world. Love for all hatred for none.

    Peace

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  • stevenson
    Oct 29, 2011 - 8:49PM

    Pakistan is tired of being a dumping ground for all of the citizens of Afghanistan or Central Asia or Bangladesh any other nation for that matter. The Afghanis you see in Pakistan are often involved in crimes such as smuggling or prostitution. When they travel illegally to Western nations and apply for asylum they can vail themselves of state welfare/khayrat. Most Afghanis are living on welfare/ state kkhayrat because they do not work and contribute taxes there but at least Western countries can afford it. Pakistan cannot support the Afghanis anymore.

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  • pinky
    Oct 29, 2011 - 10:51PM

    Mr PM, i think you are resorting to oversimplification…
    and i am not sure if i like this repeated reference to the war on terror in every damn speech of every single office holder….in most of the cases, its not even relevant!!

    @Dr Priyanka
    we have realized the futility of unreciprocated love ;p

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  • kamran
    Oct 29, 2011 - 10:54PM

    Afghans are our Muslim brothers we love them they are corrupt leaders and afghans know it very well.

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  • Zara
    Oct 29, 2011 - 10:55PM

    Aren’t you presumptuous Priyanka. Don’t be in such a rush to reach stupid conclusions. Based on this one comment you’ve decided we don’t love Afghans? History itself speaks volumes about our love for the Afghans. It’s not your place to spew rubbish and if you think it is take yourself someplace where the people suffer from the same short sightedness you do.

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  • Waqar
    Oct 29, 2011 - 11:51PM

    i could make the same point about indias love for kashmir. Pakistan never used violence on afghans instead hosted them, gave them jobs took care of them for 20+years.

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  • Som
    Oct 30, 2011 - 12:09AM

    The 3.5m Afghan refugee is bravery award “Nishan-e-Haider” for defeating Soviet Union. Keep it safe.
    They also bring you cash from UNHCR.

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  • ahsan
    Oct 30, 2011 - 12:20AM

    this radicalism will ruin our beautiful country . we have to be liberal up to a limit if we want to be a prosperous pakistan …. i don,t know what,s the harm in polio vaccinesRecommend

  • G. Din
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:14AM

    Those here who moan and groan and wail about Afghan refugees amongst them should remind themselves that you purposely did not deport them back to their country because they became a cash cow for you. You receive millions in their name. Contrast that with how India handled 10 million refugees chased by Pakistani army out of Bangla Desh. As soon as the country was free and had its own government, all of them were sent back – in a matter of months – because India had no ulterior motive in the whole affair. If you did not have one, you should have bussed them back as soon as you installed the Taliban government in Afghanistan (which was recognized by all of three governments of the world). It would have been far easier then. Now, you cannot wish them away because some of them have settled down and taken up Pakistani citizenship. Incidentally, what about those 300, 000 “Bihari” Pakistanis left by you to rot in Bangla Deshi refugee camps till this day – now for 40 years plus. Even MQM does not talk about them. It may not be politically correct to say so but one cannot escape the conclusion that Pakistan has always acted in bad faith with everyone, their own citizens, Americans, Indians , Afghans etc.. There is a price to pay for all that and you have begun to do so! So pay it without moaning and groaning and wailing – like a true mard-e-momin!

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  • It Is Economy Stupid
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:18AM

    Why not release the Polio expert and drop the charges of treason?

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  • It Is Economy Stupid
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:21AM

    @Salman: India did host 90,000 Pakistani soldiers in 1971. Go back to school and read the history. Pakistan is the twin brother of Afghanistan. Which community has to leave Pakistan to get rid of Dengue?

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  • GetRidOfFeudalPolitics
    Oct 30, 2011 - 3:19AM

    @Dr Priyanka:
    We have kept them for thirty years despite all the problems they have brought with them. I don’t think any country would be willing to pay the prices we have paid for giving them shelter. It has been 30 years. Some of them have been given nationality now. Many suicide attackers were afghan refugees. What should we do?
    When it was your turn to give refugees shelter in ’71, you used it as a pretext to start a war.

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  • Oct 30, 2011 - 5:54AM

    @stevenson:

    The Afghanis you see in Pakistan are often involved in crimes such as smuggling or prostitution. When they travel illegally to Western nations and apply for asylum they can vail themselves of state welfare/khayrat. Most Afghanis are living on welfare/ state kkhayrat because they do not work and contribute taxes there but at least Western countries can afford it

    That is just incredibly bigoted, besides being blatantly misinformed. I guess when the Pak PM himself uses bias to scapegoat his own failure and crassly targets refugees by telling them to ‘go back’, in un-diplomatic talk, I can see how others will jump in and take it further.

    Like as if there aren’t any Pakistani immigrants or asylum seekers who’ve scammed or defrauded Western governments living off welfare checks. And the Pakistanis caught as terrorist suspects in the West would suggest Pakistanis as…..? See how stereotyping works, not nice is it?

    Yes, refugees are a handful, and we’ve had to deal with criminal organizations across the border, besides our own criminal problems, but to claim they’re all into smuggling and prostitution and don’t work and are simply collecting welfare checks in Western countries is gross generalization and false prejudiced stereotyping of Afghan refugees and immigrants.

    In fact some of the resentment I remember in the past in Peshawar and Karachi revolved around how Afghans were able to quickly gain employment, or ran profitable businesses better than the local residents or shops.

    The Kabul Farms staff I happily buy from, where I get my halal meat and other Asian food items, contributing to our community, certainly don’t seem like lazy tax dodgers, collecting welfare checks….

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  • a1mohajir
    Oct 30, 2011 - 6:21AM

    afghans will suffer the same state like the mohajirs are suffering today. As a mohajir we are with our afghan brothers. I hope punjabis and others do too.

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  • Billoo Bhaya
    Oct 30, 2011 - 6:27AM

    @pinky:
    Agree with you. War on terror is a broken record that is being played ad nauseum. Bush and his cabinet used to play on this theme all the time and now our lot too is singing to the tune. Look at over $800 billion spent in Iraq and over $300 billion in Afghanistan and are the lives of people in those two countries any better??? In the greater scheme of things if a polio campaign was conducted honestly there would be no polio in the country. Billions of rupees are lost to corrupt officials and contractors belonging to the ruling parties, who provide non-compliant medicines that do not immunize. As an example just look at the spread of dengue fever in Punjab, where Government officials misappropriated funds and supplied shoddy pesticide.

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  • T Khan
    Oct 30, 2011 - 6:47AM

    honestly people!!!
    why do we have to justify our ‘love’ for anyone b it afghan or iran??? where does love come in to all this???
    on another note… V don’t even love ourselves let alone the discussion about loving others

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  • XX
    Oct 30, 2011 - 6:52AM

    this is just humiliating…

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  • Nafia
    Oct 30, 2011 - 7:06AM

    We are in a habbit of blaming others for our failure..Its been in our blood. And no one even protesting this. When we cudnt eradicate, we blamed it on poor afghanis.What a shameful country of ours

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  • Cautious
    Oct 30, 2011 - 7:58AM

    The problem is the Afghan refugees – the problem is that Pakistan & Afghanistan are so backward that you can’t implement a simple polio vaccination program.

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  • surtee
    Oct 30, 2011 - 9:32AM

    @Dr Priyanka:

    not us it is India dying to reach Afghanistan by any mean,if you think not read article written by kuldip nayyar or read between the lines of the pact's signed by your govt and afghanistan
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  • Someone
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:17AM

    @Priyanka: You’re very welcome to take the whole lot. :) In fact, that would be a very great favour from India to Pakistan and the best Indian investment in Afghanistan. I see a win-win situation here.

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  • Marilyn
    Oct 30, 2011 - 11:13AM

    It’s the reason why Afghan refugees have to go further away from Pakistan. Blaming them is Pakistan’s favourite sport although to be fair they have supported millions of them during the various western invasions.

    Australia of course jails the few thousand we get.

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  • Someone
    Oct 30, 2011 - 11:23AM

    Doesn’t matter if they are deported back to Afghanistan or not.
    Pakistan is numbering its days and entire area will be Loy-Afghanistan.
    Problem solved..!!

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  • Shafiq Nasery
    Oct 30, 2011 - 11:54AM

    @kamran:
    and so are the Pakistani leaders.

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  • Engineer Nouri
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:24PM

    Pakistan chose Nuclear bombs over polio and food decades ago.

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  • csmann
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:54PM

    mr. pm aLSO HAS TO talk to “mal”-inormed mullahs; by their conspiracy theories they convinve poor,illiterae people to not get vaccination; off course,they wont miss their own kids getting the vaccine;;it is poor people’s kids that pay the price
    it is the MULLAHS , not REFUGEES, mr, PM

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  • Engineer Nouri
    Oct 30, 2011 - 2:17PM

    The annual budget of the Pakistan’s Ministry of Health (2011) is about one day’s expense of the Pakistan’s Airforce.
    What do you expect?

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  • Engineer Nouri
    Oct 30, 2011 - 2:18PM

    The corrupt government that is in place in Pakistan is giving its country many problems and there is no end in sight. The US has since recently pulled out its troops and eliminated the monetary fund that was going to Pakistan to help out the country. And now the polio epidemic is starting to appear once again. It is spread through bad hygiene and because of the corruption going on in Pakistan, many places are starting to become health stricken and the polio virus is able to pass through the children who aren’t getting the necessary means to stay healthy. Should other countries come in and help Pakistan? I don’t think so because the country did this to themselves. They isolated themselves from the rest of the world and they have to deal with the problems they have on their own. And the massive rains and floods that are coming though have not helped the situation at all. Pakistan needs to stop the blame game on Afghan refugees and figure something out fast before the virus spreads to even more people.

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  • Engineer Nouri
    Oct 30, 2011 - 2:19PM

    Pakistan is a failed state, nearly every problem is self inflicted. Even the lack of flood management was partly the result of corruption and incompetance as proposed schemes never happened. As soon as aid arrived after the last flood it was being sold in Sedar Bazaar in Karachi. It is a country with no future and frankly any aid is a waste of time as it never gets to the people.
    So polio help is no use unless the country starts spending its resources on essential things and not training their dog Taliban and Haqqanis to fight and kill people in Afghanistan.

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  • Tariq Shah
    Nov 1, 2011 - 7:28PM

    @Dr Priyanka: Pakistan took in the most uneducated, the poor, the most miserable Afghans, over 9 million unofficially for over 30 years, while India only took a few thousand, of the elite Afghans with money and resources.

    Why dont you take the 3 Million and show your love? Recommend

  • Tariq Shah
    Nov 1, 2011 - 7:34PM

    @stevenson: Afghanis act as if Pakistan owes them money or something, as if we took a loan from Afghanistan a long time ago and now we have to repay them, they never say thank you, instead demand more, why do we owe them? Will they help us if we become refugees in their nation?. Those naive Pakistanis who think Afghans are their friends, have never sat with Afghans and listened to how they feel towards Pakistanis, i know as I am a pashtun.Recommend

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