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ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI, Feb 21: A recent letter from the Prime Minister's Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell to the twin cities' local administrations alleges that for the past five years, government-run polio vaccination campaigns have missed numerous areas, because they are "disputed" between the Rawalpindi and Islamabad administrations.

According to the letter, a copy of which was made available to Dawn, Bahria Town, DHA Phase-II and DHA Phase-II (Extension), Rawat Industrial Area, Media Town, Police Colony, Qasimabad and the Christian Colony near Sowan Adda are "disputed between Rawalpindi and ICT." The letter suggests that these areas were missed "due to non-inclusion in micro planning."

According to Dr Zafar Iqbal Gondal, Rawalpindi's Executive District Officer for Health, the Rawalpindi administration brought the issue to the cell's notice. "Many of these areas fall under Islamabad's control," he said, noting that residents' land and birth records and building plans were approved by the ICT administration. Teams from Rawalpindi worked in Bahria Town last December, he said, but did not go to DHA and adjoining localities, as those fall under Islamabad's jurisdiction.

He added that while Benazir Bhutto Airport and other nearby areas are also under Islamabad's authority, ICT health officials refused to work in the area, and the Rawalpindi health department ended up establishing an anti-polio counter at the airport.

An official at Rawalpindi's land revenue department added to the confusion, saying that certain areas of Bahria Town belong to Rawalpindi, while others belong to Islamabad. The same was true of the Rawat Industrial Areas.

After receiving the letter, Dr Gondal said, the Rawalpindi health department, on Wednesday, requested a meeting with the ICT's health director in order to resolve the situation.

A brief statement released by Dr Mohammad Azhar, ICT District Health Officer, says that Islamabad administration "is already immunizing areas like Media Town, Bahria Town and DHA, but a few of these areas are under Rawalpindi's jurisdiction."The Ministry of Interior and the Survey of Pakistan, on the other hand, claim that there should be no dispute on these areas.

According to a Ministry official, "The Survey of Pakistan and the local administration's patwari records have printed maps clearly demarcating the areas that under the administrative control of Islamabad, and those that are under Rawalpindi, in Punjab."

Using police jurisdictions as an example of clear demarcations, he said, "The police station for Media Town is Lohi Bher, which is managed by Islamabad Police, because Media Town is under Islamabad's authority." The idea of a dispute, he said, was "illogical."

A source within the polio cell wondered why officials had "just come up" with the issue, as there was no confusion related to coverage areas. "Where were these officials all these years? Local administrations managed these campaigns and the polio cell never brought this up," he said.

According to Dr Mohammad Azhar, over 7,000 children live in the "disputed" areas. The letter from the polio cell, saying that the situation is "serious," asks the ICT and Rawalpindi administrations to resolve the issue quickly and ensure that the children are covered "in every coming Supplementary Immunisation Activity."