Anti-polio campaign begins in Peshawar, security on high alert

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PESHAWAR: Mobile phone services were suspended in Peshawar and a ban on pillion-riding was imposed by the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as part of security arrangements for the anti-polio vaccination campaign which commenced on Sunday, DawnNews reported.

The ban on pillion riding would be effective from 8 am today till 5 pm and violateors would be prosecuted under section 188.

The polio drive aims to inoculate 800,000 children, aged below five years, in Peshawar and its adjoining areas.

Provincial Health Minister Shaukat Yousufzai said that during the campaign the children would also be provided with awareness on dengue virus and its prevention.

Earlier, teachers in KP had refused to take part in a polio-vaccination campaign citing low wages and security concerns as the reasons.

Later on Jan 25, they agreed to begin the campaign scheduled for Jan 26 following successful negotiations with the government. But the immunisation campaign was called off on the last minute on Jan 26 owing to 'security concerns'.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Jan 17 had declared Pakistan's troubled northwestern city of Peshawar as the world’s “largest reservoir” of endemic polio and called for urgent action to boost vaccination.

Almost every polio case in 2013 in Pakistan – one of only three countries where the crippling disease remains endemic – could be linked genetically to strains of the virus circulating in Peshawar, said the WHO report.

According to the WHO, 80,000 children in Pakistan have not been immunised against polio.

About 22,000 of these children hail from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Efforts to eradicate it have been seriously hampered by the deadly targeting of vaccination teams in recent years.

Militant groups see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage, and there are also long running rumours about polio drops causing infertility.

Police van attacked

A police mobile van was on routine patrol when it came under gunfire in Peshawar's Mosazai area on Sunday, according to police sources.

The policemen resorted to retaliatory firing killing one of the attackers and wounding another, the sources further said.

The wounded suspect was taken into custody by the law-enforces.

Moreover, security forces cordoned the area and began a search operation, as a probe into the incident went underway.

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