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Minister moves summary to remove PM’s focal person on polio

Updated March 15, 2019

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Babar bin Atta, the premier’s focal person on polio. — Photo courtesy of Atta's Twitter account
Babar bin Atta, the premier’s focal person on polio. — Photo courtesy of Atta's Twitter account

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister of National Health Services Aamir Mehmood Kiani has sent a summary to Prime Minister Imran Khan for removal of the premier’s focal person on polio Babar bin Atta.

“Polio is a very sensitive issue and needs to be dealt carefully. Unfortunately, the officials of the polio programme are not comfortable with Mr Atta due to his policies and the World Health Organisation is also not satisfied with him as he is extraordinarily highlighting the polio issue,” Mr Kiani said while talking to Dawn.

“Mr Atta is fond of tweeting and considers himself a Donald Trump, who tweets all the time,” the minister said. “Mr Atta had tweeted that some persons had unleashed dogs on a polio team and a number of other similar tweets can also be seen.”

The minister said that though Mr Atta claimed that the prime minister had appointed him, the fact was that “I [Mr Kiani] had appointed him and I can remove him any time. So, Mr Atta is no more in the polio programme”.

He alleged that Mr Atta had also started interfering in the Expanded Programme of Immunisation, which was a totally different subject as compared to polio.

“I received complaints that on several occasions Mr Atta had involved deputy commissioners (in polio vaccination) and forcibly administered polio drops to children. It is a sensitive issue and we should convince people to get their children vaccinated, instead of forcing them,” he said.

Mr Kiani said that the virus of the crippling disease was found only in Pakistan and Afghanistan and needed to be handled seriously.

Replying to a question, Mr Kiani said that there were 36 ancillary departments under his ministry, including the polio programme, and he had the authority to remove any official.

On the other hand, severe criticism has started to appear on social media over the issue since Thursday morning.

A number of social media users, including journalists Mohammad Malick, Asma Shirazi, Arshad Sharif and Rauf Klasra, have criticised the move about removal of Mr Atta.

Moreover, one of the donors, Rotary Pakistan, tweeted: “Mr Atta has been a great support to polio eradication. We wish he continues his efforts to make Pakistan polio free. Says Aziz Memon (National Polio Plus Committee Chair).”

Mr Atta, in his tweets, has claimed that the prime minister was his mentor and had taught him not to give in to “forces of status quo”. He said that he would continue working as the PM’s focal person on polio as long as Imran Khan desired.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2019