ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Thursday said that World Health Organization’s polio related recommendations do not contain travel restrictions on Pakistanis and blamed Dr. Shakil Afridi’s fake vaccination campaign and terrorism that factored in negative perception about the government’s polio eradication efforts.
“These are not restrictions. These are recommendations called IHR regulations”, Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said during the weekly press briefing.
She recalled this issue has been under discussion between Pakistan and WHO since 2012 adding that our Ministers for Health and Focal Person have been attending WHO meetings quite regularly and discussing this matter.
“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, also 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 people”, she added.
On top of that, she said, a fake campaign of vaccination led by Dr. Shakil Afridi was conducted in Pakistan in which the UN agencies were also used which further reinforced the negative perception about the agenda behind the polio eradication campaign.
The spokesperson said that Pakistan has been trying to overcome that adding that the religious scholars have been involved to educate and enlighten the population.
“We have been discussing these issues with WHO. The discussion has been going on for a long time. The WHO Committee in its emergency meeting has put an alert on some countries to take strong measures”, she added.
While referring to the Minister for National Health, the Spokesperson said that interim measures for administering polio drops to travelers are also being taken, adding that the federal and provincial authorities have the immediate work to do with a view to the larger and more fundamental objective of total eradication of poliovirus from Pakistan.
She also condemned the recent attacks in Urumqi city of China in which a number of innocent people were killed.
“Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its manifestations. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with China in combating this menace,” she said.
The spokesperson reiterated that Kashmir is one of the outstanding disputes between Indian and Pakistan adding that founder of Pakistani Nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah had declared Kashmir as Pakistan’s jugular vein. She said over twenty UN resolutions are there and statements by Indian politicians make no difference about the status of Kashmir.
She said refusal of visas by India to our pilgrims is unfortunate and hoped that India would abide by the agreement.
The Spokesperson termed composite dialogue between Pakistan and India as essential for sustainable peace in South Asia and reiterated PM Nawaz Sharif’s remarks that all outstanding issues including Kashmir must be resolved. She said peace between Pakistan and India is in the best interest of people of region.
On the Prime Minister’s scheduled visit to Tehran, she said, we are looking forward to his visit, which we hope will be a constructive visit. She said Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project is still on cards and will be part of the PM’s agenda of discussions with Iranian leadership. She said, both the countries need to find out ways for making the project feasible.
About the Pakistan-Russia ties, the spokesperson said they are in positive trajectory and Pakistan wants increased Russian investment in different sectors.
She said third tranche of Pakistan’s emergency relief for Badakhshan flood affected people is likely to depart today. She said already two consignments containing tents, blankets, medicines and essential edible items through C-130 aircrafts have reached Afghanistan.
Regarding foreign allegations leveled against Pakistan’s nuclear programme, she said it is part of usual run-of-the-mill and baseless propaganda.