Govt panel to probe murder of polio vaccinators in Swabi district

Updated 31 Jan, 2020

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The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has constituted a three-member committee to probe the firing and killing of two lady health workers during the polio campaign in Swabi district on Wednesday. — Reuters/File
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has constituted a three-member committee to probe the firing and killing of two lady health workers during the polio campaign in Swabi district on Wednesday. — Reuters/File

PESHAWAR/SWABI: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has constituted a three-member committee to probe the firing and killing of two lady health workers during the polio campaign in Swabi district on Wednesday.

The committee has been told to submit its report within three days.

A notification, issued by home and tribal affairs department on Thursday, said that a fact-finding committee on the directives of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan was formed to hold probe into the killing of vaccinators in the limits of Parmoli union council in Swabi.

The special secretary of home department, Islam Zeb, DIG Kashif Alam of police department and Sharif Hussain, the additional secretary of home department, are members of the committee. The panel has been tasked to identify security lapse during the incident and also propose suitable action to avoid such mishaps in future.

On Wednesday, two lady health workers were shot dead by unidentified motorcyclists in Swabi district.

Meanwhile, the coordinator of National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio, Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, who visited the place where incident took place in Swabi, reviewed the situation with regard to the ongoing drive. He said that campaign was postponed in few selected union councils after the incident.

“The place where the incident happened is on the edge of cluster of houses quite close to basic health unit and the residence of one of the two LHWs, killed in the attack,” Dr Safdar told Dawn.

“Along with deputy commissioner, district police officer and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa polio programme and national security adviser, we shall go to the depth of the causes of the incident,” he said. He said that was been further mounted to provide safe environment to the vaccinators and safeguard children against disabilities.

“Since 2012, a total of 47 people have been killed in polio-related incidents but the workers are undeterred by such threats,” he said.

Dr Safdar said that documentation for awarding Shuhada Package to the two killed lady workers was in progress.

Meanwhile, Swabi DPO Imran Shahid told Dawn that after IGP Sanaullah Abbasi’s visit to the district and inspection of the spot where the health workers were killed, it was decided that every polio team would be guarded by security personnel during the ongoing campaign.

On the other hand, lady health workers put forward their demands and sought adequate security mechanism and financial assistance for the families of the two killed vaccinators.

The slain vaccinators were laid to rest at their ancestral graveyard and the funeral was attended by officials of the district administration and health department, politicians and local people in a large number.

Officials said that Deputy Commissioner Shahid Mahmood, health officials and district police officials were engaged in consultation to adopt a new line of action to achieve the desired objectives and continued the campaign. They vowed to continue the campaign and assured the campaigners of all possible help, especially security.

A detailed presentation was given to the IGP about the security of the campaigners, normal, sensitive and most sensitive regions in the district and the previous operations conducted against terrorists in Razaar tehsil.

DPO Imran said that there were 1,000 polio teams and every team would be guarded. “Among them, 130 teams that run the campaign in the most sensitive regions would now have two security personnel while the remaining 870 each would be provided with one security person,” he remarked.

Keeping in mind the sensitivity of the campaign, about 200 security personnel have been deployed from Hazara division to Swabi to perform duty during the drive.

The DPO said that operations against militants had been conducted since 2013 to 2016 and Parmuli region had been declared peaceful. That’s why the killed vaccinators were without security personnel, he added.

The LHWs held a meeting in tehsil headquarters hospital Kalu Khan. The district health officer, Mohammad Tariq told the meeting that he had demanded complete security for the campaigners. “Without perfect security mechanism you (LHWs) would not perform polio duty,” he added.

The LHWs said that for three days they would mourn the death of their colleagues. They also asked the government to provide job to one person from each victim family and arrest the killers. They said that the campaign should be held once a month.

In Kohat, security measures were taken for the foolproof safety of polio teams.

In a statement, police said that special control and monitoring rooms were established to provide security to the field staff. The statement said police were being assisted by intelligence agencies and army.

Meanwhile, Kohat deputy commissioner while chairing an assessment meeting of the ongoing polio vaccination drive said that no hurdle should come in the way of vaccination of the children and all the targets should be achieved.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2020