KARACHI/PESHAWAR - Unidentified gunmen shot dead six health workers – five females among them – involved in an anti-polio campaign in separate attacks in Karachi and Peshawar on Tuesday.
The attacks have raised fears for the safety of workers immunising children against the crippling disease and has put the crucial vaccination drive in jeopardy.
Sindh Health Minister Sagheer Ahmed ordered a halt to the anti-polio drive in Karachi in the wake of the shootings.
The killing took place in three separate areas of the port city on the second day of a nationwide three-day vaccination campaign against polio, a disease endemic in Pakistan.
The first of the killings occurred in Karachi’s Landhi area, where unidentified assailants opened fire on a polio immunisation team, killing two female members. Police said there were no witnesses to the shooting.
The relatives of the deceased said there was no police accompanying the team when the incident occurred.
The second incident occurred in Raja Tanvir Colony in Karachi’s Orangi Town area when another polio team was attacked by unidentiofed assailants. Dr Shafiq, the team in-charge, said a female worker was killed on spot while a male worker was seriously injured in the firing.
A third polio team was attacked in Mochko area’s Mohammad Khan Colony. A female worker was killed and another male worker was injured in the attack.
He was rushed to a hospital but expired due to excessive loss of blood.
In a similar incident in Peshawar’s Mathra area, two female members of a polio team were fired upon. One of the two workers were injured and rushed to Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar for treatment. However, she succumbed to injuries some time later. She was identified as Farzana.
Following the incidents, the World Health Organisation suspended the Polio Eradication Campaign in both cities, demanding absolute security from the government.
The deceased in Karachi attacks included Nasima (35), who was in-charge of the oral polio vaccines team in union council seven, Orangi Town, Kaniz Fatima (20), Fahmida (20) and Madiha (19).
A Sindh Health Department official said none of the killed women were regular employees of the department, rather they had been actively engaged for the polio immunisation exercise during special campaigns.
He said polio workers were hired in areas from where they belonged in order to ensure easy accessibility to children of the target group.
The official said all firing incidents were reported between 11am and 12 noon in Karachi.
"This was definitely a deliberate attempt to sabotage the anti-polio campaign in the province," he said.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf condemned the attacks and ordered an immediate inquiry into the killings. He also directed authorities to arrange adequate security for polio teams.
The Muslim crazies that are killing these innocent nurses are also being supported by our administration. Even our Military are no longer allowed to mention the evils of the Taliban. Why is the Obama regime negotiating with these savages. Isn't it time we pull all troops out of Pakistan and let the Paki government deal with their own problems since they certainly don't want to deal with it themselves. And why does the US and Europe continue to allow Pakis to migrate to our countries when they often end up forcing their way on our women. We've seen in places like Malmo, where Muslims have gained in numbers, its no longer safe for the citizens of Norway to enter many sections of their own country. Even Copenhagen is now becoming off limits due to these savages. Maybe Obama should call for strickter gun control in Pakistan.