LAHORE - The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly condemned the state of affairs that has led to the WHO imposing travel restrictions on Pakistan to prevent the spread of virus to other countries. It also expressed alarm at lack of concrete steps after the WHO announcement to change the strategy that had failed to tackle the spread of the disease. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Commission said: “HRCP is exceedingly disappointed that the government had not taken active steps to eradicate polio virus, which has resulted in the WHO curbs on Pakistanis travelling abroad.
Even more disturbing are the stereotyped statements vowing reversal of the ban in three months time. The embarrassment and soul-searching that the WHO verdict should have evoked remain utterly absent. The blame for the anti-polio fight might not be confined to the present government alone but the astronomical spike in the number of reported cases in the first four months year of the year should have alerted Islamabad about the risks. The authorities failed to make any headway in areas causing spread of the virus in the country, struggled to handle the security for the vaccinators and did not strategise with the WHO on the way forward. These failures culminated in the country not even getting an advanced warning of the impending restrictions.
“In another country, the minister for national health services and the PM’s focal person for polio eradication would have felt compelled to resign, failing which they would almost certainly have been politely reminded to quit. Not so in Pakistan. Sacking both could be the first step in acknowledging Pakistan’s abject failure in eradicating polio and making a fresh start.
“Statements from the Foreign Office or expressions of renewed resolve would not get us out of this one. All reasons for the spread of the disease, including irrational fears and militancy, must now be tackled on war footing. The alternative, which was unthinkable just months ago, would be nothing less than isolation from the world.”