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February 21, 2018

Private school owner arrested for attacking polio team

Karachi

February 21, 2018

The owner of a private school was arrested on Tuesday after the administration refused to allow vaccinators to give polio drops to enrolled students, reportedly misbehaved with and threatened polio workers, in a first such incident in the city.

Officials of the police and polio eradication initiative told The News on Tuesday that acting on the complaint of polio vaccinators and the district administration, Ibrahim Shaikh, the owner of Al-Badar School Nazimabad was arrested and later, on the directives of the Directorate of Private Schools, his establishment was sealed for functioning without any registration and legal status, in violation of existing rules.

According to the officials, as part of the ongoing polio drive in the city, a vaccination team led by Assistant Commissioner Rafiq Shaikh arrived at Al-Badar School in Nazimabad 4 on Tuesday morning and asked for permission to immunise students under the age of five enrolled there.

“The school administration refused to allow us to administer polio drops to children, arguing that parents had asked them not to let anyone give polio drops to their children,” said AC Shaikh. “When we tried to convince them, they started misbehaving with us, became violent and even damaged our vehicle.”

According to Central Deputy Commissioner Asif Jan Siddiqi, the team including the AC, vaccinators and two lecturers were verbally and physically abused, attacked with batons and pelted with stones. He said on their complaint, police took action against the perpetrators who belonged to the school.

“District Central is a high literacy area and no school has ever refused polio immunisations. But today, this person and his accomplices got violent and attacked polio workers without any provocation, which resulted in an ugly incident,” the DC added.

When contacted, Nazimabad police station SHO Rizwan Haider said on the complaint of a UC supervisor, they had arrested the owner Ibrahim Shaikh, who along with some of his employees had subjected polio vaccinators to violence and damaged their official vehicle.

“We have lodged an FIR under sections 147, 149, 186, 424 and 337-A of the Pakistan Penal Code which deals with rioting, unlawful assembly, obstructing public servants from discharging their official duties, injuring people and fraudulent concealment of property,” said Haider.

He added that raids are being carried out to arrest the other accused including Hanif and Faizan, both employees of Al-Badar School. He further said the accused in custody would be presented before court tomorrow to seek his physical remand for investigation.

Following the incident, the Central district administration officials also reached the site and after receiving the relevant authorisations, sealed the school for operating illegally without registration.

Expressing concern over the incident, Fayyaz Jatoi, the coordinator for Sindh Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication, said they were at the “finish line in the race against polio” and at this time, violence and the occurrence of such incidents was very unfortunate for the cause and the country.

“We are not in the favour of use of force in the war against polio,” said Jatoi. “We would continue to convince parents and schools to administer polio drops to children in the coming drives to eradicate this menace for once and all.”

Officials involved in polio eradication efforts are already under tremendous pressure due to rising numbers of refusals by parents as after every consecutive polio drive, the number of refusals increases and fresh efforts need to be made to convince parents to vaccinate their children.

Schools refusing polio drops to children is another major challenge for the polio authorities as parents put pressure on the schools’ administration not to allow vaccination of their children. In the past, many schools have not allowed polio vaccinators to enter their premises and do their job.

“This time, we have decided to take this issue very seriously and anybody hindering the polio drives would be taken to task,” said an official of the polio eradication initiative. “Violence against polio workers and hindrance in the campaign would not be tolerated at any cost.”

As many as eight children were infected by the poliovirus in Pakistan in 2017, including two in Karachi, putting the city administration under pressure to vaccinate each and every child multiple times in successive polio drives.

The ongoing five-day drive is the second one of the year and was launched on Monday wherein a team of 12,000 vaccinators and other staff aims to give polio drops to 2.4 million children under the age of five in the more than 247 union councils of Karachi.