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10 policemen, seven polio volunteers killed in Sindh since 2012

10 policemen, seven polio volunteers killed in Sindh since 2012

KARACHI: The killing of seven policemen guarding polio workers during a vaccination campaign was the first of its kind in two years in the city and gravest in terms of killing of policemen taking their death toll to 10 since 2012, officials said on Wednesday.

Before this attack, official figures show that seven polio workers and three policemen had been killed in 13 incidents in Sindh while Karachi was predominantly the major affected destination for such attacks.

A member of the law enforcement agencies (LEAs), six polio workers and three civilians were wounded in these attacks.

Authorities claimed that they arrested nine suspects vis-a-vis the attacks in Sindh. However, they did not elaborate in which stage the legal proceedings against those ‘culprits’ were.

“Today’s incident shows it was aimed at the police and not polio workers,” claimed an official in the Emergency Operations Centre for polio in Sindh.

However, an official in the provincial health ministry said that it was a fact that the policemen were killed because of their duty to guard polio workers, which showed that the actual target was polio campaign itself.

“Several incidents have been reported in which policemen have been targeted; we cannot call this attack one of them,” insisted the official. “They have been killed because they were guarding the volunteers.”

Figures show that a total of 96 attacks on polio teams and LEAs have been recorded since 2012 of which 41 were carried out by militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 18 in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), 17 in Balochistan, 13 in Sindh and five were documented in Punjab.

With two incidents this year, a total of 70 police and LEAs were killed with 21 each in Balochistan and Fata, 18 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 10 in Sindh.

Some 33 polio workers have been killed during the same period, 14 of whom were killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, seven in Sindh and six each in Balochistan and Fata.

Besides, eight civilians were also killed in the gunfire and bomb attacks — three each in Balochistan and Fata and two in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Some 31 policemen and paramilitaries were injured in those attacks — 30 of them in the northwest and a single in Sindh; while 26 polio workers and 20 civilians were also injured.

Most volunteers (11) were killed in 2013 while most LEAs (32) were assassinated in 2014. Some 31 polio-related incidents were recorded in 2013 and 32 in 2014. Last year, 12 such attacks were recorded in the country.

The first violent incident in Karachi was reported in July 2012 when a local paramedic associated with polio vaccination was shot dead and a World Health Organisation doctor, Fosten Dido, from Ghana and his driver were wounded in two separate attacks in Sohrab Goth.

On Dec 17, 2013, an attacker was killed and another arrested by the police in a botched attack on vaccinators in Gadap Town. In an earlier attack on August 21, also from Gadap, over 30 female vaccinators who were to inoculate children with booster drops against polio were attacked with gunshots by six armed men, which forced them to run helter-skelter and take shelter in a nearby school until the police guards returned fire and caught one of the attackers.

In 2012 on December 17 a young volunteer associated with the anti-polio campaign was shot dead in Gadap Town, stopping the three-day anti-polio campaign in the most volatile union council 4. ‘Campaign to continue’

City commissioner Asif Hyder Shah said that the anti-polio campaign would continue on Thursday despite the lethal attack on policemen.

The campaign had been suspended in Karachi West after the twin attacks in Orangi.

Mr Shah, however, said the campaign would continue uninterrupted, as such attacks would not deter the authorities and the volunteers to stop their effort to eradicate the crippling disease.

An official in the health ministry said: “We are very upset with the situation, but the morale of those connected with the campaign is not down. They are ready to work.”

PMA condemns

The Pakistan Medical Association (Central) condemned the attacks and demanded that those who killed the policemen guarding the polio workers were brought to justice and given exemplary punishment.

“It is evident that polio now exists only in two countries of the world including Pakistan. This act of terrorism is an effort to stop this campaign and let the polio spread in the country,” said a statement issued by the PMA.

“The campaign should go, foolproof security should be provided to the teams and culprits are arrested and punished.”

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2016

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