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Police officer on his way for polio duty gunned down in Bannu

April 23, 2019

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An assistant sub-inspector (ASI) in Bannu, Imran, who had been deployed at a basic health unit in Bannu to provide security to polio workers during the province-wide anti-polio drive, was gunned down by unknown gunmen while on his way to duty, police confirmed on Tuesday. — Photo provided by author
An assistant sub-inspector (ASI) in Bannu, Imran, who had been deployed at a basic health unit in Bannu to provide security to polio workers during the province-wide anti-polio drive, was gunned down by unknown gunmen while on his way to duty, police confirmed on Tuesday. — Photo provided by author

Assistant Sub-inspector (ASI) Imran, who had been deployed at a basic health unit in Bannu to provide security to polio workers during a province-wide anti-polio drive, was gunned down on Tuesday by unknown assailants while he was on his way to work, police confirmed.

District Police Officer (DPO) Yasir Afridi told DawnNewsTV that the counter-terrorism department is investigating the incident.

According to Afridi, the firing took place within the jurisdiction of the Domal police station. He added that the attackers fled the crime scene on a motorbike.

KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has also taken notice of the incident and asked for a report on the incident from the provincial inspector general of police. Khan said that they share the pain of the victim's family and added that the suspects will promptly be brought to justice.

Although police have not yet provided a motive for the murder, there is an established pattern of violence targeting people participating in anti-polio drives. It is, therefore, likely that it could be linked to a recent wave of anti-vaccination hysteria in the province.

Earlier today, police in Peshawar had arrested a man on charges that he spread misinformation about the anti-polio vaccine in a series of videos that went viral on social media.

The videos had partly fueled a panic that had seen hundreds of children in different cities of the province admitted to hospitals on the basis of minor or imaginary symptoms in the midst of a province-wide anti-polio drive.

After reports circulated that 75 students from a school in Badhber had fallen ill allegedly after being administered the anti-polio vaccine, hysteria had spread across Peshawar and other cities where the drive was being conducted, with concerned parents thronging to hospitals believing their children had been administered spurious vaccines.

However, doctors found that few if any of the children actually suffered any ailments, and even those who were mildly ill were sick due to the hot weather or other routine matters.

Nonetheless, family members and area residents resorted to agitation. They broke the doors and windows of a hospital during their protest, set a Basic Health Unit in the area on fire and held polio workers hostage for some time.

Panicked parents continued taking their children to hospitals for checkups till late at night ─ with some 300 children taken to Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital alone ─ and mosques added further grist to the rumours by issuing intermittent warnings over their loudspeakers to not get children vaccinated, and that those who had must reach hospitals to avoid a reaction.