PESHAWAR: A female health workers group has demanded the restoration of 17 lady health workers and a supervisor who were sacked for their help in tracing al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
The group has also threatened to boycott the upcoming polio vaccination campaign in the province if the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government did not accept their demands.
The 18 workers were part of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation and had assisted Dr Shakil Afridi, a surgeon from Khyber Agency, in running a fake polio campaign at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency to obtain DNA samples of Bin Laden and his family so that their presence in Abbottabad could be confirmed. Dr Afridi is now in jail.
“The sacked workers are being used as scapegoats while senior officials are not being touched,” said Farman Khan, chief patron of the Lady Health Workers Programme Association (LHWPA), at the Peshawar Press Club on Saturday.
Khan said that the workers’ job contracts are decided by senior officials, who can summarily dismiss them if they refuse to carry out an order. “The workers carried out orders,” he said.
He said that not only have they been terminated, they have also been declared ineligible for government service for the rest of their lives. “These women should be restored to their positions and action should be taken against senior officials who had ordered them to cooperate with Dr Afridi.”
‘No job security’
Khan said that LHWs have been serving the nation for 18 years but their contracts are yet to be regularised. “Devolution under the 18th amendment has created another set of problems for them as the provincial government isn’t paying them or reimbursing travel charges.”
When the workers took to the streets to demand their payments, the government coughed up Rs360 million after which health authorities embarked on a spate of vengeful action against them.
He alleged that about 36 LHWs and a driver were terminated in Mansehra district while eight people were fired from provincial headquarters. Five people were transferred to remote areas as punishment.
He said that the government was considering regularising LHWs following the Supreme Court’s suo motu notice of their protest in Islamabad on March 26 and a committee, headed by Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Shah, was looking into the matter.
“Shah told us that Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments are opposing regularisation of services,” he said, asking both provinces to be sympathetic towards these poor people.
He also pointed out discrepancies in the salary structure, saying that a worker gets Rs7,000 a month and a supervisor, who looks over 30 workers, also gets the same amount.
He also said demanded the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to restore terminated employees, reverse vengeful transfers at the district level, pay dues and cooperate in regularisation.