2 police officers killed in Pakistan during polio vaccination drive
Islamabad, Jun 9 (EFE).- Two police officers were shot dead on Wednesday for providing security to a polio vaccination team in Pakistan, the only country apart from Afghanistan where the disease continues to be endemic and where vaccination officials face constant threats from fundamentalist groups.
The two officers were shot while returning on a motorcycle after accompanying a polio vaccination team in the northwestern Mardan district, local police spokesperson Gul Khan told EFE.
“As per initial investigation the policemen were martyred because they performed their duty to protect polio team,” Khan said.
The two assailants escaped from the scene and an operation has been launched to nab them.
The attack comes on the third day of a massive vaccination campaign that aims to immunize 33.6 million children below the age of five against the disease, which can cause paralysis and muscular atrophy in the limbs.
Around 223,000 vaccinators are taking part in the drive.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world with active polio cases, and armed attacks by extremist groups against vaccinators and their escorts have proved to be one of the biggest hurdles in the fight against the disease.
Pakistan is the global epicenter of polio with 84 new cases reported in 2020, down from 147 in 2019, but still far above previous years when 12, eight, 20 and 54 cases were recorded, respectively.
This year the country has only reported one polio case so far, something which the authorities have attributed to the restrictions on people’s movement due to the pandemic, polio program spokesperson Shehzad Baig told EFE.
Several people in Pakistan consider vaccination to be against Islamic practices, and some even fear that the anti-polio campaign is part of a west-hatched conspiracy to control birth rates of Muslims by causing infertility with vaccinations.
This has led to repeated attacks on vaccination teams by Islamists. EFE