PM’s polio focal person quizzed over social media comments

Updated 29 May 2019

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The Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services (NHS) on Tuesday directed Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar bin Atta to stop criticising parliamentarians on social media. — Photo courtesy Babar bin Atta Twitter
The Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services (NHS) on Tuesday directed Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar bin Atta to stop criticising parliamentarians on social media. — Photo courtesy Babar bin Atta Twitter

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services (NHS) on Tuesday directed Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar bin Atta to stop criticising parliamentarians on social media.

It is worth mentioning that a few months back the committee, while discussing the issue of polio, had decided to summon Mr Atta to get an explanation from him.

As it was suggested by a former focal person of the prime minister, Ayesha Raza Farooq, to call Mr Atta, he tweeted against her which irked the chairman of the standing committee, Mian Ateeq Sheikh.

The chairman said he had reservations over Mr Atta’s tweets and asked him to give an explanation.

“There is no need to play tweets and that is why I have decided to discuss the matter in the parliamentary committee by adding it to the agenda items,” he said.

However, Mr Atta said that he had never used the name of the senator in any tweet and if it was proved he would submit his resignation.

“The day the notification of my appointment as the PM’s Focal Person on Polio was issued I was criticised in a newspaper. In an interview, Ayesha Raza Farooq said that Mr Atta was a clerk in Unicef,” he said.

“When I face criticism on social media, I have no option but to reply on social media,” he said.

As Ms Farooq was not attending the meeting, her stance could not be recorded.

However, the committee chairman said that he (Mr Atta) should control his emotions and avoid criticising parliamentarians on Twitter.

Mr Shaikh said that as Pakistanis all of ‘‘us try to fulfil our responsibilities at best’’. He condemned the use of Twitter as a forum to highlight differences. He said that all of ‘‘us must think beyond party lines for Pakistan’’. This was the only way to move ahead, he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Atta said later that he had directed that as many as 19 children, who were infected with the virus of the crippling disease, be tested, but it was proved that only two of them were given polio vaccine.

While discussing challenges of the Polio Eradica­tion Programme, the committee was informed that the biggest impediment was that there was no ownership of the programme in Pakistan and that after all of these years it was still being viewed as a pariah entity.

The committee took no­tice of charging students double insurance fees while they seek to be transferred from one medical college to another and said that payment of difference was understood, but charging a double fee for transfer was unacceptable.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2019