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Family members hold their children suffering from measles and admitted at a hospital. — Photo by AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani admitted on the floor of the Senate on Thursday that poor handling of measles’ cases had resulted in the recent outbreak of the disease and death of 232 children in 11 districts of Sindh.

Replying to a call-attention notice from Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah of PML-F, the federal minister claimed there had been no shortage of vaccines in the province but the real problem was “access to people” and at present only 40 per cent of the area was being covered.

Despite Punjab having the government of rival PML-N, the minister praised the authorities of the country’s most populous province for taking effective steps to contain the disease.

He also praised the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and said the authorities in the two provinces had adopted “better case management which lacked in Sindh”.

Mr Bijarani challenged the figure of 1,000 deaths as claimed by the PML-F senator and termed it “exaggerated”. He said although there was no justification for even a single death, the actual figure of children’s death due to measles was 232 in the province.

He also informed the house that the federal government had provided 10.7 million doses of measles vaccine to Sindh although the actual requirement was only 4.1 million.

The minister said that his own home district was among the eight most badly hit regions and assured the house that more vaccines would be provided but only after the doses already provided had been administered. He asked elected representatives to play an effective role in reaching out to the people so that the maximum number of children could be vaccinated against the deadly disease.

While moving the notice, Senator Shah said voices had been raised in Sindh about non-availability of vaccines and failure to vaccinate all children up the age of five. He said if the government claimed that sufficient quantity of vaccines was available then “it is a case of severe mismanagement”.

WALKOUT: The Pakistan People’s Party faced an embarrassing situation when its stalwart Raza Rabbani and members of its coalition partner Awami National Party staged a walkout from the house to protest against the alleged withdrawal of murder charges from the FIR registered against owners of a garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town after last year’s fire in which more than 270 labourers were burned to death.

The protesting members returned only after Leader of the House Jahangir Badar and Federal Minister for Political Affairs Moula Bakhsh Chandio denied the allegation and promised to present the documentary evidence in the house on Monday.

Speaking on a point of order, Mr Rabbani alleged that there were reports that the government had withdrawn murder charges against owners of the garment factory on the orders of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. He said over 270 labourers were burnt to death due to closure of all the six gates of the factory.

An angry Rabbani blasted the government, saying it would give a bad name to the party which was considered to be the party of workers and labourers. He said it appeared the party was deviating from the principles set by its founders. He said on the one hand, cases under terrorism charges had been registered against the workers and labourers who had been protesting against the mismanagement and anti-labour policies of the Karachi Electric Supply Company, on the other murder charges were being withdrawn against investors and businessmen.

Responding to Mr Rabbani’s allegations, Moula Bux Chandio confirmed that a demand for the withdrawal of the FIR had come before the prime minister in a recent meeting in Karachi. He said he was present in the meeting and the prime minister had only called for a report on the incident. He claimed the prime minister had not made any order to alter the FIR.

Meanwhile, senators from the Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A) and JUI-F continued their protest against imposition of the governor’s rule in Balochistan and staged a walkout for the fourth consecutive day.

The Senate passed the Maritime Security Agency (Amendment) Bill 2012 adopted by the National Assembly last month. The main purpose of the bill is to change the name of the Maritime Security Agency as Pakistan Maritime Security Agency conveying its “recognition as a law-enforcement agency”.

The Senate will again meet on Monday evening.