Goodwill ambassador: First to be vaccinated, Aseefa vows to eradicate polio

Published: August 10, 2012
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Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari speaks about her initiative to eliminate polio from the country. PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL/EXPRESS

Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari speaks about her initiative to eliminate polio from the country. PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL/EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: 

She was the first child in Pakistan to be administered polio drops by her mother, and former premier, Benazir Bhutto. Today, at 18, she is Pakistan’s goodwill ambassador for polio eradication.

In an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune, the first detailed one to any media, a resolute Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari vowed to carry forward the mission, and stand up against forces that have politicised the anti-polio campaign.

Some Taliban factions recently imposed a ban on the immunisation programme in the tribal areas, linking its resumption to the halt in US drone strikes.

“We would not allow them to disrupt the anti-polio campaign,” Aseefa said. “By administering polio drops to her own children, my mother set a precedent for all parents in the country,” she added.

“My mother left a great vision … and I will give my best to carry her legacy to make Pakistan a polio-free country,” she added.

Polio is a crippling disease and the government will leave no stone unturned in making Pakistan a polio-free country, Aseefa said, citing the recently inaugurated National Polio Emergency Plan signed by the president.

Religious opposition

Speaking about the misconceptions regarding the polio campaign in Pakistan, especially the religious opposition, Aseefa said that polio eradication campaigns have faced such challenges in other countries, such as Nigeria and  pushed the programme back by five years.

She added, though, that when religious leaders are engaged and are shown fatwas and references calling for saving children from this disease, they become strong advocates for the cause.

“We are collaborating with the ministry of religious affairs and have brought on board over 730 ulema who have put their weight behind the campaign,” she said.

The entire Muslim world has eradicated this disease except Pakistan and Afghanistan, she said, suggesting that Saudi Arabia can play a key role in this regard.

The Imam-e-Ka’aba can make an appeal to that effect, she said, adding that Islam calls for protecting the vulnerable and saving humanity from diseases.

Political opposition

“The worst thing one can do is to drag politics in this issue which affects the health and well being of our children,” Aseefa said. She has recently stated that certain political groups in the country are against polio vaccination campaigns.

“Let us all, as a nation, be united for the sake of our own children,” she said.

Aseefa termed the inaccessibility in parts of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) a major issue in the eradication campaign. The region continues to report the highest number of polio cases in Pakistan.

The government is working closely with the armed forces in running campaigns whenever it finds a window of opportunity, she said.

Army field hospitals are being used to reach the children and there is a fire-walling or transit strategy in place to cover children on the move, she added.

She said she is in constant contact with all stakeholders, including the tribal leadership in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

“As an ambassador, I deem it extremely important to thank all political and religious forces of the country that have helped me in conveying the message against polio across the country,” she added.

Funding

Aseefa also tried to dispel the impression that funds for the polio drive are received and consumed by the federal government.

The prime minister’s special assistant, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, who was by Aseefa’s side during the interview, said the network comprises 220,000 employees who work 365 days  a year against polio.

To run the functions, Gates Foundation and the Japanese government have donated generously, $45 million and $61 million respectively, routed through the World Bank to agencies in Pakistan who work in collaboration with the World Health Organisation’s technical teams, Ali added.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (51)

  • Aug 10, 2012 - 4:24AM

    Well if Aseefa Zardari says so, it really must be headline news!

    Recommend

  • Acorn Guts
    Aug 10, 2012 - 4:46AM

    If we are to require the ‘religious certificate’ for every thing in our society then we must have some government office to issue such certificates too. No seriously, I am not joking. Get Imam Ka’aba or who ever these religious zealots believe in to deputise some one in Pakistan who would hand out printed slips of paper with what ever certification it takes so we can at least get along with saving our children and the future generations

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  • Muhammad
    Aug 10, 2012 - 4:52AM

    Well done Aseefa

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  • All that money has gone to Zardari buying houses in Clifton area.

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  • kanwal
    Aug 10, 2012 - 5:03AM

    Oh NOOOOOOOO! not another Bhutto! Pls go back to UK or Dubai, wherever you grew up.

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  • Salma
    Aug 10, 2012 - 5:04AM

    Subhan Allah! great work.

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  • Raj - USA
    Aug 10, 2012 - 5:31AM

    Excellent step in the right direction. I wish her success.

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  • Muhammad
    Aug 10, 2012 - 5:49AM

    Stop this drama please! Why after 4 years you suddenly realize Pakistan needs something. The whole bhutto family is opportunist and corrupt. Sorry but it’s the truth. You play politics on dead people

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  • random
    Aug 10, 2012 - 7:33AM

    Its the election year isn’t it and the PPP has to woo the young / educated voters. Nice try but we know too much to believe in such shenanigans.

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  • Sindh Voice
    Aug 10, 2012 - 8:03AM

    A matured approach she possess.

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  • Sher Ghazi (@Ghanishkuch)
    Aug 10, 2012 - 8:27AM

    Elections are on head, now GOOD WILL AMBASSADOR will also appear daily basis, Polio campaigns will turn into election campaign. Very Cheap.

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  • hasan
    Aug 10, 2012 - 8:31AM

    its the great nation whose leaders doesn’t prefer to live their form where they have gotten all da wealth!
    great nation with no self respect!

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  • ali
    Aug 10, 2012 - 9:08AM

    No Comments.

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  • WA
    Aug 10, 2012 - 9:16AM

    Who cares what she says! ET get your standard up; this is NOT a NEWS!

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  • Awan
    Aug 10, 2012 - 9:18AM

    @Muhammad:
    u shut up please

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  • Khalid
    Aug 10, 2012 - 9:39AM

    How long will they survive and fool the nation with the name Bhutto…What are her credentials and service to people of Pakistan, can they say a word without BBs picture in the back ground,that is there only ticket to fame & fortune.

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  • Think
    Aug 10, 2012 - 9:44AM

    Why she has been nominated as a Goodwill ambassador. Has she passed any criteria.

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  • Arshad Mahmood
    Aug 10, 2012 - 9:45AM

    Good work Aseefa! Keep it up!

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  • Ali
    Aug 10, 2012 - 9:52AM

    And once again Pakistanis will fall into these gimmicks. Yes, we a that stupid.

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  • Nadeem
    Aug 10, 2012 - 11:20AM

    Actress, nothing else!

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  • papoo piplia
    Aug 10, 2012 - 11:26AM

    PPP has destroyed health care in Pakistan from top to bottom with rampant corruption.

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  • Ali
    Aug 10, 2012 - 11:29AM

    @Awan:
    Poodles like you have destroyed this country. Mohammad is speaking the truth

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  • Naveed Javed
    Aug 10, 2012 - 11:57AM

    Now this is the real issue; Thank You Aseefa BiBi- Live Long!

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  • NN
    Aug 10, 2012 - 12:05PM

    Whatever she is doing should be appreciated, rather than criticizing and passing adverse comments.

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  • Agnostic
    Aug 10, 2012 - 2:00PM

    @Think:
    She was the first child to be vaccinated for polio by her mother…isnt that enough of a criteria…?

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  • DevilHunterX
    Aug 10, 2012 - 2:06PM

    The prime minister’s special assistant, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, who was by Aseefa’s side during the interview, said the network comprises 220,000 employees who work 365 days a year against polio.

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  • M Usama Kabbir
    Aug 10, 2012 - 2:24PM

    People often overlook the very immediate and tiny improvements Benazir Bhutto brought to Pakistan. Clean water, eradicating polio, women police stations etc. Had her governments not been unconstitutionally removed, Pakistan would have been a different place today. All that today’s Urban Elites are concerned with is the amount of subsidy they can get on wheat and petrol. Man of the above comments reflect the inherent prejudice against the Bhutto family, nurtured by the military establishment over the years. Sad but true, while Asifa strives to make a difference by eradicating polio, PTI and PMLN mull over each others’ wives and daughters. What a shame.

    Way to go Aseefa ! We are with you !

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  • Ali
    Aug 10, 2012 - 2:27PM

    Well done Aseefa… if someone is doing good work it should be praised not criticized… please support her in this effort!

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  • Amitabh Bachchan
    Aug 10, 2012 - 2:29PM

    Hahaha what Criteria? In Pakistan you only need to be a Bhutto to do anything and ppl will follow you like slaves

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  • Hu
    Aug 10, 2012 - 2:40PM

    Regardless of whether people like the Bhutto’s or not, at least she is trying to make a contribution to society. It is a positive step and it should be appreciated for the cause in itself.
    Please look at the various Hollywood stars that have been used as good will ambassadors in the past by UN itself. Do they meet any criteria or do they need to pass a test.
    Reason being they are personalities which the media is bound to focus on, indirectly highlighting the issue, which is in this case is advancing the polio campaign.

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  • Aug 10, 2012 - 3:08PM

    isn’t she cute!

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  • Sarah
    Aug 10, 2012 - 3:55PM

    Aseefa how about you do us all a favour and convince your father to get our money from his accounts back. Thanks.

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  • deejay hajat
    Aug 10, 2012 - 5:08PM

    i have the problem with you, why are you the first child vaccinated, why not a child of a poor farmer. secondly does she deserves to be the ambassador. why dont we have another person for it, as she already enjoying the status of being the daughter of president. some one tell them it’s not right way to invade the every post..Recommend

  • Chacha Jee
    Aug 10, 2012 - 5:47PM

    Populism has many colors and flavors. Nice stunt!

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  • Rose101
    Aug 10, 2012 - 5:53PM

    @Muhammad:
    I will appreciate her when something has really been done and the results are visible. Enough talk.

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  • Rose101
    Aug 10, 2012 - 5:56PM

    @NN:
    The thing is that she hasn’t done anything yet. She is just vowing. Judging from the past vows of PPP and its members, forgive me if I am sarcastic

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  • Vikram
    Aug 10, 2012 - 6:12PM

    @Mustafa,:
    You are not supposed to look at her pic, lower your gaze.

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  • Silent Spectator
    Aug 10, 2012 - 6:20PM

    These Bhutto/Zardari kids remind me of the Kardashians. Mostly looking good on TV and doing nothing. After the PPP gets voted out in the next elections, I seriously suggest that they start a reality show so they can continue to entertain us with their superficial vows, dysfunctional family, luxurious lifestyles, and zero sincerity for Pakistan. I really think they have the potential and the necessary elements to pull off an entertaining reality show.

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  • Aug 10, 2012 - 6:29PM

    We all have to be united either it will be difficult to make a Polio Free Pakistan. At the starting of August there were only 23 reported polio cases but within 9 days reported polio cases have become 20. “Polio Eradication – We can do it.”

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  • Rick
    Aug 10, 2012 - 7:08PM

    In Pakistan no good deed gets unpunished. For some even vaccines are politics. If the fanatic terrorists did not oppose vaccination there would be no involvement of any person. Now we have to decide either let the kids go without vaccination or do it no matter how?
    Many people living in comfort would not take interest in this, but at least she is showing the courage to do that. Only God knows full well what is in her young heart, we cannot and should not be the judge.

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  • Siddh
    Aug 10, 2012 - 7:38PM

    Good initiative BUT why her? Wat qualifies her to be the goodwill ambassador? Being First daughter perhaps? Shameful indeed. Grow up rulers

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  • A. Khan
    Aug 10, 2012 - 7:43PM

    @kanwal

    Lets be clear that Benazir’s children are not Bhutto but Zardari, no matter how they change their names.

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  • not impressed
    Aug 10, 2012 - 7:43PM

    @Awan:
    why should he shut up? he’s saying the right thing.

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  • Bewakoof Shehri
    Aug 10, 2012 - 7:51PM

    Whatever she is doing should be appreciated, rather than criticizing and passing adverse comments. Why don’t you go out on the roads and do whatever you want to rather than just pointing fingers at someone who is actually doing good. We as a nation are so lame! We do not appreciate anything positive around us. Whether this work is done by PPP, PML-N or PTI. Sanu kii. Kaam tou acha karahi hai na bachi.

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  • Muhammed Ali Abbasi
    Aug 10, 2012 - 10:09PM

    Aseefa sorry . we are tired of “bhutto””s the vision set by Benazir Shaheed has surely been lost during 4 yrs of corruption ! We LOVE BENAZIR but cannot stand another bhutto.Recommend

  • Umar
    Aug 10, 2012 - 10:20PM

    @Agnostic:

    No

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  • PTI Mardan
    Aug 11, 2012 - 12:01AM

    Asifa zardari just read some of the most recommended comments on this article to see how people feel towards your family and party.Please go back to one of your mansions where you belong.We dont need your services.Recommend

  • pakistani
    Aug 11, 2012 - 12:05AM

    @Think:
    She was first child to be vaccinated in Pakistan… That’s why she has been nominated as the goodwill ambassador… It seems u haven’t even read the headline and started criticism, that’s not a mature attitude.

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  • Babe
    Aug 11, 2012 - 10:34AM

    Some ask “Wat qualifies her to be the goodwill ambassador?”
    If anybody wants to do this work nobody has stopped them. It is not a formal post against salary. Like Edhi anybody could take up welfare work without expecting any return. At least she is not collecting money from the world on the name of her personal fame and an investment or stepping stone in politics. Anybody can take up these causes on honorary basis.

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  • muneer shah
    Aug 13, 2012 - 8:02PM

    Shaheed Benazir’s grooming is very perfect.

    Recommend

  • NN
    Aug 17, 2012 - 10:10AM

    @Rose101:
    being ambassador she is trying to reduce the child mortality and Pakistani(RURAL)kids will get rid of this killing diseases, for a second forget that she is daughter of president, focus on her good deeds..

    Recommend

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