Govt offers to investigate former PM’s focal person on polio

Dawn

ISLAMABAD: After criticism from the opposition parties on the floor of the Senate, the government on Monday offered to hold an inquiry against the prime minister’s former focal person on polio Babar Bin Atta for alleged corruption.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan agreed that an inquiry should be initiated against the former focal person. If the house directs the government to hold an inquiry it will be initiated, he added.
The house was discussing a motion moved by PPP Senator Sherry Rehman regarding an increase in polio cases in the country.
The minister said the house can also refer the matter to a parliamentary committee for a probe and the committee can summon Mr Atta.
If Senate directs govt, an inquiry will be initiated against Babar Bin Atta for alleged corruption, minister says
He appreciated the previous PML-N government for doing a good job and reducing the number of polio cases, but claimed that the PTI government would eradicate the virus.
The minister said due to the Covid-19 pandemic the polio vaccination drive remained halted for almost five months. He said there were almost same cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ruled by the PTI and Sindh where the PPP is in power.
Senator Rehman said former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had started the polio vaccination programme. She said cases had re-emerged during the tenure of the PTI.
“We never heard the name of Babar Bin Atta but he was appointed as the PM’s focal person on polio. As many as 30 million children were missed during the vaccination drive just because a social media manager was appointed as the polio manager. Even international organisations pointed out corruption in the polio programme due to which finally Mr Atta resigned,” she said.
Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, who remained the PM’s focal person on polio during the tenure of the PML-N, said in 2017 only eight cases had reported in the country but after the PTI came to power the cases again increased.
She said till the end of the PML-N government’s tenure in 2018 there were only three cases in a small area of Balochistan. But during the tenure of the PTI the cases have increased to 12.
“You appointed a focal person who brought shame to the country. It was your prerogative to appoint anyone but you appointed a person who played with the health of the children of Pakistan. We took the PTI and PPP onboard to eradicate the poliovirus but you did not bother to build a political consensus. Even thousands of community workers have been dismissed,” she said.
Ms Farooq said former special assistant to the prime minister on health Dr Zafar Mirza had contacted her and said he wanted to build political consensus. She said a national advisory council on polio was established but till date it has not held even a single meeting.
“The government, which changed three health ministers and five health secretaries, cannot ensure continuity in its policies. However, I am still hopeful as it is never too late,” she said.
PTI Senator Dr Meher Taj Roghani said it was unfortunate that the country even failed in routine immunisation.
“The rate of routine immunisation is 50 to 60 percent despite the fact that it should be 100pc. Around 15,000 children are born per day and each of them should be vaccinated in one week,” she said.
PPP Senator Quratulain Marri said two deaths had been reported in Lahore due to polio. She said even former minister Azam Swati had said action will be taken against Mr Atta but so far no action has been taken.
Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan said the World Health Organisation (WHO) has observed that the government has made polio a political football.

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