K-P police arrests 471 parents for refusing polio vaccine

Deputy commissioner of Peshawar says anyone who refuses the vaccine will be sent to jail

Afp March 02, 2015
PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR: Police in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have arrested more than 450 parents for refusing to vaccinate their children against polio, officials said on Monday.

Riaz Khan Mehsud, deputy commissioner of Peshawar told AFP that 471 parents were detained and sent to jail for refusing the vaccine.

Read: Arrest warrants issued over refusal of polio vaccination: K-P police

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic but years of efforts to stamp it out have been badly hit by reluctance from parents, opposition from militants and attacks on immunisation teams.

The virus is most prevalent in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and a fresh immunisation drive began on Monday aimed at vaccinating more than 2.7 million children in the province.

The government declared "war" on polio last year and Mehsud said officials would brook no refusal from parents.

"There is no mercy, we have decided to deal with the refusal cases with iron hands. Anyone who refuses (the vaccine) will be sent to jail," Mehsud said.

Those arrested on Monday were from suburban areas of Peshawar where militant groups regularly attack police and polio workers and where opposition to vaccination is relatively strong.

Mehsud said authorities have issued 1,000 blank arrest warrants so refuseniks could be dealt with swiftly.

Muhammad Mumtaz, another senior official, confirmed the arrests and told AFP that the detainees would "be freed only after a written assurance and providing two guarantors" to ensure their children get the drops.

Taliban militants claim that the polio vaccination drive is a front for espionage or a conspiracy to sterilise Muslims. They stepped up their attacks after a Pakistani doctor was recruited by the CIA to set up a hepatitis immunisation drive as part of efforts to track down Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden.

Read: Dr Shakil Afridi thrown to the wolves: lawyer

Last year, the number of polio cases recorded in Pakistan soared to 306, the highest in 14 years.

At least nine new cases have so far been detected in 2015.

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COMMENTS (7)

Rex Minor | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend Riaz Khan Mehsud, deputy commissioner of Peshawar told AFP that 471 parents were detained and sent to jail for refusing the vaccination of their children.in KPK One wonders from such pronouncements, if there is a democracy in Pakistan or is it still being ruled by the colonial beurocratic structures of the army, commissioners and police chiefs? Rex Minor
S.R.H. Hashmi | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend With the Polio cases last year having reached 306, being the highest in fourteen years, there would have been no excuse for the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government not to get tough with those who refuse polio vaccinations. However, I am glad that instead of just talking tough, and hurling threats to deal with 'iron hands', the KP government has actually started dealing firmly and has already arrested and jailed 471 parents who refused polio vaccinations to their children. Religious scholars of repute have already declared that polio vaccines contain no harmful ingredients or any element which could be considered to be against the religion. As such, there is absolutely no reason for people to refuse to get their children immunized against polio. The people refusing polio vaccines are being not only unreasonable, but indeed extremely cruel to their children. Through their stubbornness, they are unnecessarily exposing their loved ones to the risk of being disabled for life, with no profession or vocation left for them except begging, in addition to life-long dependence on others. And while they will be gone, their children will continue, not to live but just to exist in that pathetic condition, cursing them all the time for not taking one simple step of getting them immunized against polio, especially when it did not even require them to spend big money and the service was available at their door, free of cost. I hope other affected provinces also follow the excellent example set by KP. Karachi
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