ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Babar bin Atta on Friday tendered his resignation citing personal reasons.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Atta said his father was ill and because he was his only son he had to look after him. He said he could not continue work on this important post on a full-time basis.

Mr Atta said it was this personal reason and there was no other reason behind his resignation. He said that he worked hard during the last one year without any salary or other benefits.

However, there has been an alarming increase in incidence of new polio cases this year. While 12 such cases were reported from all over Pakistan in 2018, the number of polio cases has reached 72 this year. Fifty-three of the cases are from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, eight from Sindh, six from Balochistan and five from Punjab.

In messages on Twitter, Mr Atta said: “After a stint of over a year as the Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio, I have asked the PM to relieve me of my duties because of some personal reasons pertaining to my family. During this time I got a chance to work with the best minds in the world.”

“When I look back, I am proud to say that I made all possible efforts to create that enabling environment where polio eradication is a top priority. A 24/7 call centre will soon be inaugurated to address all concerns of people who have questions related to the vaccine.”

“The countries first ever Perception Management Initiative will be rolled out by the end of this month and the effects of which will be a game changer I assure. I am leaving at a time when the low transmission season is about to commence Pakistan is in a position that will finally eradicate polio once and for all. The opportunity should be capitalised and should not be lost from here. I forever remain indebted to the love and respect all of you have offered. May Allah be our Guide and Protector.”

Interestingly, the resignation came after a month Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) criticised the government for turning polio eradication programme into ‘disaster’ and demanded formation of a commission to fix responsibility, as the country has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of polio cases this year.

Former health minister Saira Afzal Tarar and former focal person on polio eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq regretted that the polio eradication programme appeared to be in complete disarray and highlighted the need for a focus on the immunisation campaign to avert threat to children.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019