ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday accused the United Nations agencies of being used in a ‘fake polio vaccination campaign’, which hampered the anti-polio drive in parts of the country, increasing the number of polio cases.
During a weekly press briefing on Thursday, FO spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam Khan was asked to comment on the travel restrictions being imposed on Pakistanis on the recommendation of the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) because of polio cases.
“We have been pointing out to the WHO the difficulties we face, which include the security situation in certain pockets, the threat of terrorism, attacks on polio workers, and excessive focus on one type of vaccination i.e. polio, while children require a cluster of nine vaccines. This created some doubts about the agenda of vaccination among the people. On top of that, a fake campaign of vaccination was conducted in Pakistan in which the UN agencies were also used. I am referring to Dr Shakeel Afridi’s case. This further reinforced the negative perception about the agenda behind the polio eradication campaign. We have been trying to overcome that.”
Meanwhile, the FO spokeswoman said that Pakistan had not scrapped the Iran-Pakistan (IP) Gas Pipeline project, and, to this effect, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would hold discussions with the Iranian authorities during his upcoming visit to Tehran.
“The gas pipeline at the moment is not a regional issue. This is a project between Pakistan and Iran. The project would be discussed. Unlike the perceptions that are sometimes generated, the pipeline project has not been scrapped. It is very much on the table,” she said in response to a query from Daily Times.
Commenting on a conference on nuclear non-proliferation held here Wednesday, whereby some international experts showed concerns on Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Tasnim Aslam Khan brushed off concerns of international experts as ‘really wild allegations’. “I understand some wild allegations were raised. Some speakers talked about issues of concern. At least they had the intellectual honesty to admit that these allegations were just their apprehensions and they did not have any basis and evidence to level them. It could have been out of habit or just the usual run of the mill propaganda against Pakistan. I also understand that the allegations were adequately rebutted. Concerns have been expressed about other countries and situations as well. Recently, a couple of books have come out about the state of nuclear security and safety in the US. Along with technologies that can have devastating effects on human beings comes the responsibility to have robust security and safety measures. Pakistan is one of the prime examples of this. The director general of the IAEA visited Pakistan recently and he was very categorical in his praise for Pakistan’s measures. Pakistan’s safety and security measures were greatly appreciated at the Hague Summit on Nuclear Security. The US leaders and officials have been effusive in their praise of the measures that Pakistan has taken. So making allegations in seminars without any evidence is not something that should be given undue importance.”
To another query on the next round of Pak-India defence secretary-level talks on Siachin issue, she said the composite dialogue process stands stalled. “India is going through the process of election and we will see how things work out after that.”
Regarding the army chief’s statement that Kashmir was Pakistan’s jugular vein and Indian minister P Chidambaram’s response that India had the capability to “cut off this jugular vein,” Tasnim Aslam said that Quaid-i-Azam declared Kashmir the country’s jugular vein. “Kashmir is a disputed area. It is a recognised and the oldest dispute on the UN Security Council agenda. There are 20 council resolutions on this dispute. Statements by Indian officials and politicians cannot do away with that fact.”
The spokeswoman confirmed that United States Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was due to arrive in Islamabad on Thursday night. “His meetings are being worked out. Obviously, there will be meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some calls have been requested with the leadership, which are being processed.”
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