A polio case was confirmed in the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) region on Saturday, where a vaccination campaign was called off following attacks on vaccinators – making it the year’s first case in the region.
In a related development, police detained two people for their alleged role in attacks on polio fieldworkers in Charsadda district earlier this month.
A senior health official, Dr Mubeen Khan, confirmed that a child has been afflicted by poliovirus in Diamer Valley of G-B. “The family had recently migrated to Diamer from Malakand Agency,” said Dr Mubeen, who is a senior official in the National TB Control Programme.
He called upon the government to run special vaccination drives in the valley to ensure that poliovirus is eradicated.
Last year, a two-year-old boy was diagnosed with poliovirus in Diamer Valley which shares it borders with Kohistan, a conservative district in Hazara division of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
“As a result of attacks on vaccinators, more than 3.6 million children in the country could not be inoculated against the crippling disease,” said Dr Mubeen.
Two men allegedly involved in attacks on polio fieldworkers were detained on Saturday during a raid by security forces and law enforcers in Shabqadar tehsil of Charsadda district.
On Saturday afternoon security forces raided a house in Tarkha village of Shabqadar and arrested two men allegedly involved in the killings of polio field workers in Battagram area and firing on vaccinators in Dheri Zardad union council, a source told The Express Tribune.
The detained suspects were identified as Shafiq and Darvaish, residents of Tarkha village. They were shifted to an undisclosed location for questioning.
On December 19, Zakia, an anti-polio campaign supervisor, and her driver Ayaz were killed by gunmen in Shabqadar. Four other women field workers were also attacked in Nowshera district.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks – but Taliban militants are opposed to vaccination which, they believe, is used by the United States for spying on them.
Pakistan is one out of only three countries where polio remains endemic.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2012.