Members from all parties unanimously adopted a resolution – moved by Pakistan Peoples Party’s Shazia Marri – to make Pakistan a polio-free country. Members of religious parties called for harsher punishments for those who create hindrance in achieving this milestone.
Marri termed the surge in polio cases ‘alarming’, particularly from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. She said 96 polio cases have been reported in the last six months – 89 of them emerged in Fata. She complained that the government had also not paid lady health workers for many months. Additionally, she said if Pakistan did not address this problem, it would soon face travel restrictions from other countries.
In a jibe at Maulana Samiul Haq, Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Ahmad Sherpao said that “a Maulana who is shying away from a decree he made in favour of polio vaccinations”.
In October last year, Jamia Darul Uloom Haqqania, Nowshera, (Maulana Samiul Haq is head of the seminary) issued a fatwa supporting immunisation. However, the publication of the fatwa in local newspapers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa angered representatives of the seminary as it could create hiccups in the dialogue process with the TTP.
Sherpao, a former chief minister of K-P, said the National Assembly resolution would “send a clear message to everyone” regarding the importance of immunisation. He also questioned why the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had not empowered its representatives – a member of the newly formed committee – to bring up the issue during talks.
PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the issue had been discussed between Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif. The premier, he said, had been asked to take up the issue during negotiations with the TTP. “Our party is more serious about eradicating polio from the province and Imran Khan has launched a massive awareness campaign which was praised worldwide,” he added.
PML-N MNA Rajib Ali Baloch, while condemning the murder of a vaccinator Fahmida in Bannu on Monday demanded protection for health workers. Additionally, Sherpao suggested that a trust be established for the welfare of the families of health workers killed during immunisation campaigns.
PML-N’s Shahbuddin, who is from Waziristan, remarked that stronger legislation and penalties would ensure that parents allow vaccinations for their children.
JUI-F’s Shahida Akhtar pointed to the success of an awareness campaign launched in her constituency of Lakki Marwat and suggested that all MNAs launch similar awareness campaigns.
Jamaat-e-Islami lawmaker Sahibzada Tariqullah concurred, saying a campaign launched in Dir was a huge success and the area has not reported any polio cases recently. Akhtar also stressed the need for greater financial compensation for vaccinators.
Deputy Speaker Murtaza Abbasi adjourned a resolution to another private member day for further debate. A resolution urging the government to take immediate steps to lift the ban on YouTube was also deferred. The resolution was moved by Shazia Marri and PPP MNA Syed Naveed Qamar.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2014