Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan’s decision to lead the anti-polio campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and open the latest drive from hometown of Maulana Samiul Haq has put the federal government in a fix.
The health ministry and the prime minister’s focal person on polio have not spoken on the development so far.
Last week, soon after the killing of two policemen guarding polio teams in Swabi and a polio volunteer in Khyber Agency, Imran Khan announced his decision to spearhead the polio eradication efforts.
Though there is a long list of personalities who have hailed Imran Khan’s initiative, the federal government has maintained an unexplained silence.
Those who supported the PTI chief included former ambassador on polio eradication Asifa Bhutto Zardari who twitted: “Fully support IK in encouraging polio immunisation campaigns in KP. When it comes to healthcare we must put political differences aside.”
Additional Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Bruce Alyward had on Monday a detailed telephonic conversation with Imran Khan.
“Your stance will go a long way in restoring the confidence of the polio workers and the massive support PTI has in KP will pave way for the polio drive,” Dr Bruce said.
Country director Unicef and WHO Dr Nima Abid wrote a letter to Imran praising his initiative.
An officer in the national health ministry requesting not to be identified said Imran Khan received a direct threat from Ansaarul Mujahideen, affiliated with the outlawed TTP, for his polio initiative.
President of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for International Development, Dr Chris Elias also met Imran Khan on Friday and expressed his appreciation for his initiative, he said.
“However, no official from the health ministry, the prime minister’s polio cell and the PM’s office have bothered to appreciate Mr Khan,” he said.
An official associated with the PM polio cell, requesting anonymity, said the federal government should put politics aside to appreciate the stance of the PTI chief.
The official expressed surprise over the withdrawal of security to Imran Khan by the interior ministry.
Focal person for the PM cell on polio, MNA Ayesha Raza Farooq, told Dawn that after the 18th Amendment polio was a provincial issue and the PM cell was just coordinating with the polio teams.
“Mr Khan should have started working for the eradication of polio many years back. But thank God at last he has realised his responsibility,” she said.
Information Minister Pervez Rashid told Dawn that Mr Khan had not done anything for which he should be congratulated.
“In fact, I started criticising Imran Khan because he was not taking any action against the killers of the polio workers. As a result, Mr Khan started photo sessions with the polio teams,” he said.
“We have a lot of volunteers who can give polio vaccine to children so we do not need Mr Khan to give vaccine to children. If Mr Khan is serious about the polio campaign he should ensure actions against the extremists who have been killing polio workers. After that I will congratulate him,” he said.
“Those who have been attacking polio teams are violating our sovereignty, but Imran Khan has become their spokesman and criticising the government over the drone issue,” he said.