NA calls for emergency response to polio threat

* PPP describes looming threat of travel restrictions on Pakistan a ‘national shame’

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution for implementation of polio immunisation programme on emergency basis, following an intense debate in the House raising serious concerns on the looming threat of travel restrictions on Pakistan if the disease is not eradicated completely.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) hasn’t placed any restrictions so far, State Minister Saira Afzal Tarar clarified, referring to comments certain members during their speeches. She also denied that it was a diplomatic failure of the government to fight case at the international forum.
A motion by PPP’s Shazia Marri calling for concrete steps to completely eradicate the polio led to the passage of the resolution. The resolution called for making Pakistan polio-free as soon as possible. It also stressed upon all the members of the House to commit themselves to monitoring and implementation of the campaign in their respective areas.
State Minister Saira Afzal Tarar winding up the debate described the sensitisation of the House about the issue a positive sign and stated that giving the campaign a political ownership would help remove the bottlenecks in this regard. Terming the polio a national issue concerning the future generations of the country, Tarar pointed out that low coverage ratio of the campaign has always been a problem. She blamed the provinces for giving false figures of the anti-polio vaccine coverage. She believed that EPI needed to be reviewed to enhance its coverage and defended the government for taking up the case at the international level with full force.
The minister was of the view that Dr Skakeel Afridi episode and drone attacks created major hindrances in the past, but, asserted, that now no such thing existed.
PPP’s Dr Nafeesa Shah described the emerging situation regarding polio a ‘national shame’ and equalled to a national security threat for which interior and foreign ministers too are required to become active. 
She rejected the notion that problems cropped up because of Dr Shakeel Afridi’s episode and the drone attacks, calling such thinking ‘absurd’, that would only strengthen the hands of the enemies of the country.
Mahmood Khan Ackazai, chief of the Pakhtunkhwa Awami Milli Party, who was the first one to raise the issue on polio disease, said that the resolution would ascertain who are against it and who favour it for the lives of the children of the country.
JUI-F’s Muhammad Jamaluddin came up with the ‘weird’ statement that drone attacks on Pakistan territory carried the germs of polio and spread out it in the tribal areas.
PTI’s Sheharyar Afridi believed that lack of coordination between federal and provincial governments was making the things worse regarding eradication of the polio. He suggested the religious fraternity should also be involved to create an awareness among the masses against this disease.
On the private members’ day, controversy on issue of passport to MQM chief Altaf Hussain also kept the House gripped, with MQM lawmakers flying into rage over what they believed the delaying tactics of the government to act speedily in this regard.
The issue even led to walkout of MQM’s legislators from the House against what they called biased attitude of the government.
MQM’s acting parliamentary leader Rasheed Godil angrily spoke about the government’s alleged tactics to keep Altaf Hussain deprived from the passport and said that he is a Pakistani and would remain so despite the biased attitude being meted out to him. Rasheed was also supported by PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Jammat-e-Islami’s Tariqullah and PPP’s Naveed Qamar who advised the government to refrain from making this an ‘issue’. They believed it was the legitimate right of Althaf Hussain to get the passport.
State Minister for Interior Baleeghur Rahman tried to calm MQM members, contending that the standard operating procedure is being observed in the issue. He said that the data given by Altaf Hussain has not been captured by the NADRA’s system.
“We have no problem at all to issue the passport to Altaf Hussain. He should visit NADRA office in UK to give the particulars,” Rahman said.

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