How Imran Khan’s Close Aide, Babar Bin Atta Destroyed Pakistan’s Efforts To Eradicate Polio

babar bin atta imran khan
Source: Samaa TV

In a damning report published in the Guardian on Thursday, it has been alleged that the recently resigned Prime Minister’s Focal Representative on Polio Eradication, Babar Bin Atta hid the emergence of new polio cases and the re-emergence of the most damaging, P2 strand of the virus both from the government and international donors.

What Is The P2 Strand of Polio?

There are three types of strands by which Polio is characterized, i.e., P1, P2 and P3. By far P2 is considered the most dangerous strand as it is notorious for being highly contagious and for attacking the under-five victim most viciously.

In 2014 Pakistan had achieved a huge milestone in its fight against Polio when it was declared that the P2 strand had been completely eradicated from the country.

If the P2 strand had been eradicated, how did it resurface?

According to the source who broke the story to The Guardian, after the P2 strand had been entirely eliminated from Pakistan, as per protocol, all remaining P2 vaccines should have been destroyed. This was important because the vaccines contain the live virus to boost immunity.

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However, someone, somewhere administered the P2 vaccine on a child and made him/her a carrier. This is believed to have led to its fresh outbreak.

What does this mean for our children?

According to The Guardian, there has been an alarming rise in the number of Polio cases in Pakistan this year. 77 fresh cases have come to light of which 12 are attributed to the P2 strand.

While most of the alleged cases have been registered in Diamer district, at least one case is believed to have emerged from the capital, Islamabad.

How is Babar Bin Atta responsible?

As per Pakistani law, each new Polio case has to be registered with the government. The government in turn is obligated to alert international bodies.

However, Babar Bin Atta – who was forced to resign last month owing to months of clamour around his alleged corrupt practices and gross mismanagement of the Polio Eradication Program – forbade his team from alerting the government or the international donors.

Instead, it was allegedly decided that a “secret” polio eradication campaign would be administered targeting the P2 strand specifically. This clandestine campaign was reported to begin from Rawalpindi on Monday, 11 November.

However, with the campaign being a “secret” from even some of the most senior government officials, let alone international donors (who continue to invest billions into Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Program), it is impossible to expect the campaign to adhere to quality standards or serve as a serious effort to tackle the crisis that the re-emergence of the P2 strand has thrown the country into.

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The Guardian points out that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been repeatedly informed about Atta’s incapacity to manage the Polio Eradication Program, his gross mismanagement and his misuse of the office he held. However, the Prime Minister had resisted attempts to oust Babar Bin Atta for months until finally in October this year when he was asked to resign by Khan.

What does the re-emergence of the P2 strand mean for Pakistan?

The re-emergence of the P2 strand is a huge set back for the country’s fight against Polio.

If even a portion of The Guardian’s report holds true, Babar Bin Atta’s sheer lack of interest in the cause, his incompetence and corruption have all contributed towards rolling-back years of progress made against the disease. More importantly, it has put Pakistani children at risk of contracting the most dangerous strand of Polio, whose eradication we had celebrated only five years ago.