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Pakistan: Mortality and Morality Enforcers - Taliban’s War on Health Workers and on University Campuses

A compilation of reports and commentary

18 December 2013

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http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\12\14\story_14-12-2013_pg3_1

Daily Times 14 December 2013

EDITORIAL : Mandatory polio vaccines

Pakistan’s battle against polio has entered a new, more alarming chapter. In what could very well be the beginning of our limitations when it comes to international travel, India has made it compulsory, from January 2014, that anyone travelling from Pakistan to the country, no matter what the reason for the visit, will have to have administered oral polio vaccination (OPV) some six weeks prior to when they intend to travel. No visa will be issued without this condition being met. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world still battling the dreaded polio virus, a crippling illness that renders its victims paralysed; it is particularly debilitating in children. Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are on global watch lists and, it seems, things are going to get a whole lot worse.

The World Health Organisation is particularly concerned about Pakistan and has given the country until 2015 to bring the ever-rising frequency of polio cases under control or face harsh travel bans. And by these bans, we mean international restrictions on our movements of the type we have never seen before. That India has taken just such a step only goes to show that we are inching that much closer to becoming a pariah state, one that will soon be cut off from the global community. India, our next door neighbour, is a polio free country and has achieved this status after sustained efforts. It will not want to take any chances, and neither will any other country. We have found ourselves in this unenviable position because of ignorance, illiteracy, poverty and the raging war on terrorism that has seen militants spread propaganda and misinformation about polio vaccinations. Any anti-polio drive initiated by the state and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is subject to the terrorists’ wrath with workers routinely being gunned down. People living in the rural, tribal areas, fed on militant propaganda, are made to believe that polio vaccines are western ploys to spread infertility in Muslim children. Thousands of children are not receiving their compulsory polio vaccinations and are at risk. More than 70 new cases of polio were detected in Pakistan this year alone. This is not a problem isolated in just one area — the risk of spread to other parts of Pakistan is huge. We have a major epidemic just waiting at our doorstep and the international community has caught on.

It is the need of the day to nip this terror in the bud. The people must be educated about the lies being spread by the militants and, for this to happen, clerics must be brought on board to spread awareness. A surprising step has been taken by Maulana Samiul Haq, known as father of the Taliban, who has backed the anti-polio campaign in the country. More religious leaders need to be on board to refute the Talibans’ falsehoods. Our children must be immunised and no excuse should be tolerated. We cannot be shut away by the world.

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http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-8-220505-Polio-barrier

The News International, December 16, 2013

Editorial: Polio barrier

Even as militants continue actions against polio vaccination teams, more and more problems stem from Pakistan’s inability to contain the disease. On Friday, two policemen protecting anti-polio teams were killed in Swabi and a health worker shot in Jamrud. Such violence makes battling polio all the more harder. And as a result we may find ourselves bound in by a barrier placed around us to contain the polio virus which remains endemic in the country. Some 62 cases have already been reported this year and the total threatens to rise. As a result of the situation, India has become the first country to announce a practical ban on travel by Pakistanis into its territory unless they carry certification showing they have been vaccinated against polio within the last year. The restriction applies to both adults and children.

While the measure will naturally further hinder travellers in a situation where it is already difficult to obtain documents and visas, it’s most damaging impact may be on Pakistan’s image. Saudi Arabia had also stated some months ago that the polio cases emerging in Pakistan may result in travel limitations. A strain of polio originating in Pakistan has recently been detected in at least five countries including China, Egypt and Syria. Leading medical journals have also warned that the threat could extend into Europe. This is a highly embarrassing situation. Warnings as to what could happen in terms of travel restrictions had come before. India has been the first to enforce these with a WHO representative in Pakistan clarifying that it was implementing the recommendations of the Independent Monitoring Board for Polio. It is unfortunate that we did not act earlier to prevent this. Officials are now saying they are considering placing a ‘firewall’ around the Fata areas where polio is most rampant, mainly because of militant drives to prevent vaccination. But this alone will not be enough. Pakistan needs to find ways to remove itself from that dwindling list of countries where polio remains endemic. It has only Afghanistan and Nigeria for company, with India keen to protect its own position acquired early this year as a polio-free country. Pakistan must strive to do all it can to eradicate polio as well, joining nations that have succeeded in this and avoiding the kind of embarrassment that comes its way as a result of new travel restrictions.

Doctors on their own - Editorial The Nation December 03, 2013
http://www.nation.com.pk/editorials/03-Dec-2013/doctors-on-their-own

Pakistan’s polio fight goes under the radar (Dec 4, 2013)
http://www.irinnews.org/fr/report/99265/pakistan-s-polio-fight-goes-under-the-radar

Demanding protection: Swat hospitals remain shut as doctors protest (Dec 8, 2013)
http://tribune.com.pk/story/642567/demanding-protection-swat-hospitals-remain-shut-as-doctors-protest/

Three killed in separate Pakistan polio shootings (13 December 2013)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25361887

Polio campaigners abducted in Pakistan (23 Nov 2013)
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2013/11/anti-polio-campaigners-abducted-pakistan-201311238120580338.html

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http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-8-207354-A-perilous-drive

The News, October 10, 2013

Editorial: A perilous drive

Two policemen were killed in a bomb attack on the outskirts of Peshawar on Monday. The cops were targeted because they were part of a police party detailed to provide security to anti-polio vaccination teams. The motive is simple: to create a reign of terror. The targeting of health workers and cops provided for their security, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is part of that strategy. Unfortunately, the propaganda against polio workers that they are mostly agents of the west seems to have worked in various pockets from Karachi to Khyber. It has contributed towards the failure of a vaccination campaign aimed at eradicating polio. Scores of health workers have lost their lives during the last couple of years while trying to infuse life into a campaign that has failed to produce desired results. But the deadly disease, which has been eradicated from the best part of the world, still makes many of our children disabled.

Meanwhile, the international community is not happy with the state of affairs in Pakistan vis-à-vis the anti-polio campaign. According to a report, many countries might impose a travel advisory against Pakistan if the polio education campaign is not allowed to run smoothly. Such a step would be harsh considering the fact that it’s anti-state elements that are sabotaging efforts to make Pakistan a polio-free country. That said, it is also true that the governments both in Islamabad and in Peshawar will have to do more to ensure the smooth running of the anti-polio drive and the safety and security of people attached to it. And it would take much more than mere words to make things better.

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http://www.unicef.org.uk/Media-centre/Press-releases/WHO-and-UNICEF-condemn-attacks-on-health-workers-in-Pakistan/

WHO and UNICEF condemn attacks on health workers in Pakistan

Press releases

[No Date]

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF join the Government of Pakistan and the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in condemning the multiple attacks that have killed six health workers in the past 24 hours.

At least six people working on a polio vaccination campaign have been reported shot dead in several locations in Pakistan - Gadap, Landi, Baldia and Orangi towns of Karachi city, Sindh Province and Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Those killed were among thousands who work selflessly across Pakistan to eradicate polio.

The Government of Pakistan and the affected provinces have temporarily suspended the vaccination campaign due to concerns over safety of health workers.

Such attacks deprive Pakistan’s most vulnerable populations – especially children – of basic life-saving health interventions. We call on the leaders of the affected communities and everyone concerned to do their utmost to protect health workers and create a secure environment so that we can meet the health needs of the children of Pakistan.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that can cause permanent paralysis in a matter of hours. Safe and effective vaccines protect children from the disease. Currently the disease remains endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

WHO, UNICEF and all their partners in Pakistan and globally express their deepest sympathy to the families of the health workers. We remain committed to supporting the Government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan in their efforts to rid the country of polio and other diseases.

For further information, please contact:

WHO
Oliver Rosenbauer,
Telephone: +41 22 79 13832 / Mobile + 41 79 500 6536 rosenbauero at who.int

UNICEF
Sarah Crowe Spokesperson for the Executive Director Tel + 1646 209 1590 scrowe at unicef.org

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The Christian Science Monitor

Pakistan bomb blast: why health workers keep getting attacked

The bomb blast that killed two and injured 20 near a health clinic was the latest effort targeting workers involved in anti-polio vaccination efforts. Will polio see a resurgence after years of declining numbers?

By Mike Eckel, Correspondent / October 7, 2013

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/2013/1007/Pakistan-bomb-blast-why-health-workers-keep-getting-attacked

The struggle for a Polio-free Pakistan: What is behind the the sudden upsurge of violence towards polio vaccinators in Pakistan?
by Samira Shackle (25 June 2013)
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/06/struggle-polio-free-pakistan

Polio Vaccinators Face Deadly Risks In Pakistan
In regions where polio is endemic, anti-vaccination views are tied to politics.
by Francie Diep (07.22.2013)
http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-07/polio-vaccinators-face-deadly-risks-pakistan

WHO suspends Pakistan operations after polio workers shot dead (May 2013)
http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/28/18558500-who-suspends-pakistan-operations-after-polio-workers-shot-dead?lite

Attacks on Health Workers in Pakistan Will Not Stop Polio Eradication Efforts
by Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta , Monday, February 11, 2013
http://theglobalobservatory.org/analysis/433-attacks-on-health-workers-in-pakistan-will-not-stop-polio-eradication-efforts-.html

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From: 2012

Attackers in Pakistan Kill Anti-Polio Workers - NYTimes.com (Dec 2012)
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/world/asia/attackers-in-pakistan-kill-anti-polio-workers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Pakistani attacks on aid workers
Killing disease
Grisly attacks in Pakistan target those doing good to children

Dec 22nd 2012 | ISLAMABAD |From The Economist
http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21568773-grisly-attacks-pakistan-target-those-doing-good-children-killing-disease

MORALITY ENFORCERS WAR ON PAKISTANI CAMPUSES

http://tribune.com.pk/story/614383/morality-enforcers/

The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2013

Editorial: Morality enforcers

The event was in full flow when some 30 students from Karachi University burst into the premises. PHOTO: FILE

Are we facing an even more massive threat to our peace and our way of life than that posed by the Taliban, with their bombs, grenades and guns? In many ways, the extremist mindset entering our society poses a growing danger, one that has gradually seeped into each and every aspect of our lives. There are many manifestations of this, evident in all walks of life. The latest came at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Karachi, where students had organised a trade fair, complete with music and food stalls, to launch their marketing club. The event was in full flow when some 30 students from Karachi University burst into the premises, knocked over the stereo systems and accused the IBA students of wasting money on ‘song and dance’ as quake victims suffered and people starved. Two of the most aggressive intruders were handed over to Rangers.

The Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, linked to the Jamaat-e-Islami and responsible for similar acts of ‘moral policing’ on campuses around the country, was suspected of carrying out the action but its spokesman denied any involvement. Regardless of responsibility, however, the episode reflects the kind of thinking that now exists everywhere. Cases of couples being harassed at parks, beaches or cafes have come in — and we have in Punjab seen objections to school syllabi aimed at promoting tolerance. In many ways, this narrowness of vision, this orthodoxy, drives forward militancy. We must attempt to combat it, as fiercely as we must tackle the Taliban themselves. There is just no way around this. As a society, we are being stifled by the attempts to impose a certain set of ideas on us. This must be combated — it must be challenged — and all of us have a duty to play a part in this task before it is too late and the force of this extremism washes over all of us, destroying what is left of a way of life we must somehow try to hold onto, one way or the other.

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http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\10\07\story_7-10-2013_pg3_1

Daily Times, 7 October 2013

EDITORIAL : IJT at it again

One of the premium institutions of higher learning in Punjab is being held hostage by an Islamist student organisation and there does not seem to be anything anyone can do about it. The Punjab University (PU) has been hijacked by the sinister agenda of the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT), the militant student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), that has been making life hell for the students, administration and teaching faculty for decades. Everything from what they wear to which subjects are taught is scrutinised by these hooligans who go to many violent lengths to fulfil their deranged plans. The latest news to emerge from the campus grounds is that IJT goons have besieged the residences of those in charge of the hostels. This is because the administration has started taking some stringent measures to crack down on the shenanigans taking place in the hostels of the university. The hostels are the hub of all IJT activity. The IJT has had control of the hostels for a very long time and now the university administration is finally trying to wrest it back where it belongs. On Thursday night, university authorities locked six hostel rooms when they found out that some IJT members were holed up inside illegally. IJT ruffians broke three of the locks, completely defying university faculty. They then went on to attack the homes of the hostels incharge and the chairman of the Hall Council.

There is no dearth of such tales in the PU. The hostel issue is particularly contentious because of the fact that right under the noses of the university authorities and government itself, all manner of hooligans and even militants are given sanctuary in these rooms by the IJT. This is not just illegal, it is dangerous. The PU is an educational institution and to have even the slightest possibility of those affiliated to terrorism and illegal activities residing within the campus is dangerous for other students. This kind of behaviour by the IJT has been going on since the 1960s but their daring and defiance have reached new heights. In today’s particularly volatile law and order situation, for a university to have such a destructive force within its boundaries is worrisome indeed. The JI will never stop supporting them because this kind of muscle is just what they want. The government must take action against these thugs who, if not stopped, will swallow the university whole. Just sitting back and watching this happen will only make this situation worse. *