The Lahore district administration has registered first information reports (FIR) against six individuals, including famed actor Fawad Khan, for allegedly refusing to let children of their families be immunised by polio vaccination teams in Lahore, it emerged on Wednesday.
However, a press release issued by Khan's manager denied reports that the actor had refused to have his daughter vaccinated, saying "nothing could be further from the truth".
Of the six cases, four were registered at Faisal Town police station and two at Model Town police station.
The FIR against Khan (who was represented by his driver Qaiser) has been registered over "polio refusal" on a complaint of a union council monitoring officer (UCMO). It has been registered under Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 186 (offence of obstructing public servant in the execution of public duty) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The UCMO stated in the complaint that the polio team visited Khan's Model Town residence, which had one child who could be administered the vaccine, at 5pm on Tuesday, but "the head of the family has been refusing to have the children vaccinated against polio and has been threatening the polio team with serious consequences".
It wasn't immediately clear whether the "head of the family" referred to in the FIR is Khan or some other family member.
Prime Minister's Focal Person for Polio Eradication Babar Bin Atta on Wednesday said as per the deputy commissioner (DC) of Lahore, the polio team had tried to vaccinate Khan's daughter on Tuesday. In response to a question regarding the matter on Twitter, Atta said Khan's driver had allegedly misbehaved with the team after which the family members did the same.
"Mr Fawad is our pride, I request him to allow teams to vaccinate the child. Lahore has had a polio case last week, we must protect the child," Atta added in his tweet.
In response to another tweet, Atta said it was the right of parents to ask questions about the polio vaccination and it was polio officials' "duty" to respond, but "none has the right to scold our teams while they are performing their duties."
He added that as per the Lahore DC, they had allegedly tried to convince the family for two days.
"I have been told that Respectable Mrs Fawad thinks getting their daughter immunised from [the] UK will give the child protection against WPV1 strain. Protection against Wild Poliovirus can only be guaranteed with Oral Polio Vaccine."
Fawad Khan's version
But the statement issued by Khan's manager refuted reports that the actor had interfered with governmental efforts to vaccinate his daughter at his residence.
"Nothing could be further from the truth as neither of the parents were home at the time of [the] visit by the anti-polio team," it read.
According to the statement, Khan has been abroad since February 13; he performed at the Pakistan Super League opening ceremony in Dubai and is currently in the United States.
"His travel history clearly demonstrates the manufactured nature of the FIR and he has just come to know of the FIR through the press," the press release added.
It said Khan "fully supports" the anti-polio campaign and is "very well aware" of the guidelines of international organisations regarding the disease.
"The vaccination of Fawad’s daughter is up to date and the record is there to support the same."
The statement warned of legal action on behalf of Khan "should the FIR not be cancelled".
SOP in refusal cases
While speaking to Samaa TV, the focal person for polio eradication explained the process undertaken whenever a family refuses to administer polio drops to their children. He noted that the head of the district is the deputy commissioner which means he leads the polio programme.
Atta said as per the standard operating procedure (SOP) under the system managed by the DC, when a parent refuses the vaccine the first time, a supervisor of the polio team goes to convince the family, and if he or she fails to do so, their supervisor then visits the family. In the end, the assistant commissioner and representatives of the deputy commissioner visit the family to convince them.
According to Atta, in a situation where nothing works, there is a law under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance, which allows for action against individuals if they are acting as a wall between children and medicine which is meant for the betterment of the former.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Lahore DC took to Twitter to share images of the third and last day of the anti-polio campaign.