Why Polio Workers Are Under Constant Attack By Islamic Radicals In Pakistan?

Polio workers continue to face the brunt of conservative and ultra-religious groups in Pakistan. Two suspected terrorists killed at least two policemen who were part of a polio vaccination security team in Lower Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Pakistan on Wednesday.

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“The incident took place in the Maidan area of the city. The policemen were on their way to a basic health unit when they were targeted,” said Lower Dir Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Saeedur Rehman. “No officials from the polio vaccination team were injured as they were at a distance. However, the assailants managed to flee from the scene,” Rehman added.

No one, so far, has taken the responsibility for the attack on Polio team. The attack comes during a destructive year in Pakistan’s long battle against Polio with at least 104 cases reported in 2019 so far.

People are worried about the rise in polio cases. Globally Pakistan has been criticized for its uncommitted attitude toward eradicating the polio-virus once and for all. The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the WHO recently warned that Pakistan’s polio eradication program is no longer on track.

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False propaganda against the polio vaccine campaign in Pakistan has hit a new level. Many conservative and ultra-religious groups have asked the public not to vaccinate their infants and shared misconceptions about the polio program.

Religious fanatics and so-called scholars have shared materials advocating against the vaccine program. Many Pakistanis are conservative; they follow and revere such scholars and these postings can have an enormous impact, states a health expert.

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In 2011, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency used the services of now-imprisoned Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, and local health officials to stage a bogus vaccination program in an attempt to trace and confirm Osama Bin Laden’s location in Abbottabad in Pakistan.

This ploy was designed in an effort to gain more knowledge on Bin Laden’s location and collect DNA samples of Osama Bin Laden’s children from blood left on the needles used to deliver the Hepatitis B vaccination.

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The CIA’s vaccination campaign has had severe effects in Pakistan with at least 70 polio workers being killed and encountering innumerable attacks. The Pakistan Taliban believes that vaccination campaigns are a facade for intelligence gathering and tracking the operatives.

In 2015, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government issued arrest warrants for 1,200 parents for rejecting the polio vaccine. 512 people were arrested on the charge but were later freed after signing an undertaking that they would not oppose vaccination.