Emergency High Level Polio Security Meeting Saira Afzal Tarar calls for revisiting security plans

March 19, 2015

 Islamabad, the 19th March, 2015:-     Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar chaired an emergency high level polio security meeting in the backdrop of fatal attacks on polio workers in Mansehra and Bajour in recent days. The meeting was attended besides others by representative of Armed Forces, representative of Ministry of Interior. Secretary, Ministry of National Health Services Muhammad Ayub Sheikh was also present on the occasion alongside key officials of Ministry of National Health Services and Polio Emergency Program.   Saira Afzal Tarar expressing shock and dismay at recent incidents said there was a need to revisit the polio security strategy as such attacks continue unabated and they are part of spate of terrorism unleashed by miscreants who are now on the run and attacking soft targets.   Director General National Crisis Management Cell, Ministry of Interior gave a detailed briefing on polio-related security incidents and coordination being made with regard to polio security by Ministry of Interior with Provincial Governments.   Representative of the Armed Forces briefed the meeting on the support being provided by the armed forces in the Polio Eradication effort.   The meeting reviewed different proposals and options for risk mitigation and harm reduction of the polio teams.   It was agreed to recommend to the Cabinet Committee on Immunization responsible for polio security than a post incident inquiry be conducted in the event of any polio-related attack. Such an inquiry will be conducted by a team comprising a representative of Ministry of Interior, an official from the intelligence agencies, a representative of the District Police Officer and an expert representing the polio program.   The inquiry will determine the case, fix responsibility if a lapse in security arrangements is identified and make recommendations to avoid recurrence.   The meeting also agreed to recommend to the Cabinet Committee on Immunization that Provinces be asked to seek help from civil armed forces or where necessary the armed forced to ensure an impermeable security cordoning of campaign areas.   Provinces will be requested to develop detailed security plans based on ground realities. Saira Afzal Tarar said she will personally visit the Provinces soon to facilitate finalization of the security plans that are consistent with requirements on ground.   We are in a state of war and we must not be deterred such elements. Health campaigns that protect lives must go on and there will be no compromise on the health and wellbeing of our children at any cost.