PAKISTAN: The authorities are happier closing down the polio campaign rather than taking action against the killers of the health workers 

Six health lady workers and two male doctors were shot dead by the Taliban. In 24 hours more than 13 health workers were injured including eight ladies workers. One male volunteer in Peshawar died in the hospital after suffering a bullet wound in the head after the deaths of the six ladies.

”While one medical officer was shot dead in the mon th of July, the attacks the attacks have been concentrated against the lady workers. On July 20, Dr. Ishaq, the doctor in charge of the Polio campaign, was killed in Gadap town, Karachi. In the same area Dr. Fostin Nedo, a UN officer, was shot and injured near Sohrab Goth, Karachi, just three days after the killing of Dr. Ishaq.”

The Taliban have announced that they will not tolerate the polio campaign which they claim is part of a USA espionage plot. Following the attack on the hide out of Osama Bin Laden after the assistance of a doctor, Shakil Afridi, who was working on the eradication of Hepatitis, the Taliban have accelerated their campaign against the Polio eradication teams. They also insist that the polio campaign is really meant for family planning to weaken the sexual power and therefore the dominance of men.

Despite being aware of these things and in particular about the bloody campaign against the health workers, the authorities have done nothing about the Taliban attacks. The reason for turning a blind eye to these attacks is said to be that the authorities are much more interested in the huge funds involved in the polio campaign from the World Health Organisation and other international health organizations. However, rather than handling the matter with the Taliban the authorities have chosen to shut down the campaign. This is despite the fact that during the current year 56 cases of polio were identified.

The attackers knew exactly what they were doing as all of those killed were shot in the head. They also knew the exact locations of their whereabouts when they went to provide polio drops to the children. Most of the attacks were carried out in the Pushto (Pathan) speaking slum areas where the Taliban have seeped in. Only in one case did the Taliban use a two wheeler motor cycle but in other cases they walked in and out and were swiftly whisked away without any fear or capture or reprisal.

Now one third part of the country is under the control of the Taliban including Karachi, the largest industrial and commercial city of the country and it is treated as the most secular city. This is another explanation as to why Karachi is totally encircled by the Taliban where the authorities with the nexus of land grabbers have built the several slums areas to facilitate the Taliban fighters. Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Punkhtoonkha province, is also virtually under the control of the Taliban and Al-Qaida who even run the administration.

The military and Islamic political parties are against the operation against Taliban as they consider them assets for the future Afghanistan when the USA will withdraw their troops. Despite the fact that the Taliban and al Qaida publically claim responsibility for many of the attacks there are different conspiracy theories that the attacks are actually being carried out by CIA, Israeli Mossad and Indian RAW operatives and the media are instrumental in spreading these theories. Therefore it is a very comfortable position for the Taliban to take control of the cities.

Polio, or Poliomyelitis, to give it the proper title, is a viral disease that affects the nerves and can lead to partial or full paralysis. It is a terrible affliction that has been eradicated in much of the world and for the Pakistani authorities to turn a blind eye to the threats to the programme is a further indication of their obsequious attitude to the Taliban, al Qaida and the religious extremists that are virtually running the country. The Taliban have created a state within a state with the tacit approval of the authorities. It is because of this that no protection is being provided for ordinary citizens or the health workers that are putting their lives on the line every day to save the children of their country. The particular emphasis on the killing of the female workers is part and parcel of the attempt to purge the country of ladies in any industry therefore making the country a male dominated society.

The typical lack of action by the government has simply created more space for the Taliban to continue their activities and it is time for the government to immediately provide protection for women workers in any industry. The polio campaign must be restarted so as to provide life saving medicines to the children and this must be done with the assistance of the military. It is the military that must provide the necessary protection.

The government must provide compensation to the families of the slain workers and the necessary medical facilities to those injured as these people were working selflessly for the good of the country. The cessation of the polio programme can only be taken as collusion between the state and the Taliban. The authorities have already made use of a vast amount of the available funds and if they do not ensure that the programme continues if will be proof positive that they are not concerned about the future of the programme.

The AHRC urges the government to immediately restart the polio campaign and provide all necessary facilities and protection to the workers. The strongest possible action must be taken to nullify the threats of the Taliban and any other agency that threatens the welfare and lives of the citizens.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-273-2012
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Violence against women,