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Seven private schools sealed, de-registered over polio vaccine scare

May 30, 2019

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District administration officials seal a private school in Mashogagar, Peshawar, on Wednesday for spreading disinformation about polio vaccine.— White Star
District administration officials seal a private school in Mashogagar, Peshawar, on Wednesday for spreading disinformation about polio vaccine.— White Star

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Wednesday sealed and de-registered seven private schools over involvement in a polio vaccine scare, which led to the hospitalisation of 25,000 children due to the alleged vaccine reaction in Mashokhel village on April 22.

The action was taken on the directives of provincial chief secretary Mohammad Salim Khan, who had ordered the heads of the relevant departments in a meeting last week to ensure the security of vaccinators and action against the people involved in the torching of the Mashokhel basic health unit.

“We have sealed seven private schools for causing a scare about polio vaccination. Three others will be sealed today (Thursday),” deputy commissioner of Peshawar Mohammad Ali Asghar told Dawn.

He said the 10 schools identified in the inquiry report for spreading disinformation about oral polio vaccine had ceased to operate.

“We will act on the report’s findings in letter and spirit as we have to establish the government’s writ and can’t allow anyone to take the law into their hands,” he said.

The DC said the action against schools sent out a clear message to the law’s violators that they wouldn’t get away with any unlawful act.

Action against three more today, says Peshawar DC

He said the relevant departments had been working in unison to ensure action against all people named in the two inquiries, one carried out by the health department and another by the district administration.

Capital City Police Officer Qazi Jamilur Rehman said it was due to the quick response of police that nobody was injured in the Mashokhel incident.

“A case was registered under different PPC sections against the people involved in burning down of BHU, while 14 people have been arrested,” he said.

The CCPO said Nazar Mohammad, who led the anti-vaccine propaganda, Rehmanullah, Subhanullah, Waqas, Adil, Fazl Wadud, Irfan, Sifatullah, Laiq Shah and Yasir were also arrested after cases were registered against them.

In a statement, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Private Schools Regulatory Authority said the schools sealed and unregistered included Darul Qalam Model School Mashokhel, Iqra School, Hall Mark School, Peshawar Cambridge School, Oxford Public School and Pine Breeze School in Hassan Garhi, and Muslim Standard School in Bashirabad.

An official of the PSRA told Dawn that the schools had sealed and de-registered to prevent vaccine scare in future.

Another official said the inquiry report had blamed the April 22 incident on elected representatives, prayer leaders and some individuals and recommended legal action against them besides the regulating of the use of loudspeakers in mosques.

He said the chief secretary had been informed by the health department that workers were in a ‘state of fear’ and that they wouldn’t be able to carry out anti-polio campaigns in villages, where anti-vaccine lobbyists were active.

The chief secretary said Pakistan, where polio virus was in circulation like Nigeria and Afghanistan, was under tremendous pressure of the international community to eradicate polio to protect worldwide children from disability.

He said it was national cause to vaccinate children against polio.

The official said the polio virus had been eliminated worldwide by the vaccine used in Pakistan.

He said the anti-polio campaign, which was halted on April 24, could resume after action was against those involved in vaccine scare.

Sources said the police were registering FIRs against people, who torched the BHU and incited mob to violence.

They said the district administration and police were also taking measures to ensure that loudspeakers aren’t used for anti-vaccine propaganda.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2019