CHARSADDA - Six policemen and a boy were killed and eleven others injured on Wednesday when a police van on its way to guard a polio vaccination team was bombed in Charsadda district, forcing the authorities to indefinitely suspend the vaccination drive in the whole district.
Only a day before gunmen had killed on one polio worker in Mansehra and three others in Karachi, prompting the provincial polio workers’ association to declare a halt to their work across Sindh province. Polio drive has also been postponed in Chitral, Haripur, Dera Ismail Khan and Multan over security concerns.
In Charsadda’s incident, a police van carrying 10 policemen was on way to guard polio vaccination teams in Sardheri Bazaar on Mardan-Charsadda road when explosives planted on bicycle parked along the road exploded with a big bang. Charsadda DPO Shafi Ullah Khan said that the bomb was exploded, probably with a remote control device, at around 8:30am.
Hawaldar Khwaja Muhammad Khan, driver Azam Khan, constables Wisal Khan, Kashif, Gul Shah and Ikram Gul and 13-year-old Adnan were killed. Eleven others including four policemen – Haseeb, Bashir Ahmad, Mubarak and Nizar Alli – and civilians Farid, Jameel, Junaid, Zubair Shah, Kamal Ahmad, Wajid Ali and Shah Hussian sustained injuries in the blast.
Windowpanes of some five nearby houses and shops were smashed due to the blast, which is the third one in Charsadda district in last three days. The dead and injured were taken to district headquarters hospital of Charsadda, where emergency was declared. Three seriously injured persons were shifted to Lady Reading Hospital of Peshawar. The funeral prayers of the dead policemen were offered at Bahadar Khan Police Lines. Later the dead bodies were dispatched to their native villages.
Talking to media persons, Mardan Range DIG Syed Wazir said that the police mobile van was on way to a nearby BHU to guard a polio vaccination team, when it was targeted. He said that some four kilograms of explosives were used in the blast. The police chief said that security of polio workers would be ensured at all costs. However, the district administration suspended the polio drive in the district in the wake of the attack.
The attacks and threats of violence have badly affected efforts to stamp out the crippling disease, as Pakistan is one of only three countries where it remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. Only days before the World Health Organisation warned that Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar was the world’s “largest reservoir” of the polio virus.
Militant groups see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage, and there are also long-running rumours about polio drops causing infertility. According to the World Health Organisation, Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year compared with 58 in 2012. Last week the country’s neighbour and great rival India celebrated three years since its last polio case.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak strongly condemned the attack on police van and announced compensation for the victims of the incident. He also announced a financial assistance of Rs3 million each for the six martyred police personnel, one lakh each for the injured personnel, five lakhs for the martyred student and two lakhs each for the injured civilians. Khattak also directed for paying full salaries of the martyred police personnel to their legal heirs till the completion of their service, free education to their children and giving government jobs to one family member of the each martyr. KPK Governor Engineer Shaukatullah also strongly condemned the terrorist attack and expressed his deep shock and sorrow over the loss of precious lives.
Staff Reporter from Islamabad adds: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to make Pakistan a completely polio-free country. In a statement‚ he said 95 per cent of the country has already been made polio free but still a lot more is needed to be done. The prime minister expressed pleasure that the disease has been controlled in conflict-hit areas of North Waziristan and Khyber Agency despite challenges.