World Bulletin / News Desk
More than 450 parents in a Pakistani city have been arrested for refusing to let their children be vaccinated against polio on Monday.
The arrests are seen as part of attempts to remove barriers to a government campaign to administer polio vaccinations to all children in Pakistan, which is one of only three countries where polio is endemic. The co-ordinated arrests are considered the largest since the government began its anti-polio campaign.
Riaz Mehsud, the deputy commissioner of the city of Peshawar, said most of the detained parents had refused the polio vaccine because of a cultural taboo that has developed in parts of rural Pakistan, and especially in the northwestern tribal belt, because of a belief that it is a conspiracy to sterilize Muslim children.
“We first tried to convince them, even through religious scholars, but they refused to bring their children to vaccinators,” Mehsud told reporters, adding that more than 1,000 more arrest warrants had been issued.
Officials said the detainees, who have been charged with obstructing official business, could potentially be jailed for a period of one week up to three months.
The World Health Organization imposed travel restrictions on Pakistan in June in an effort to contain the spread of polio. Polio remains endemic only in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to eradicate the disease from Pakistan by the end of 2016 but government campaigns are hindered by taboos and security problems.
The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militant network has imposed a de-facto ban on polio vaccinations, enforced with violent attacks, since the CIA used a polio campaign as cover to search for former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
According to local media reports, at least 41 vaccinators have been killed while on duty and scores of volunteers have faced death threats.
There were almost 300 polio cases reported in Pakistan in 2014, with the majority occurring in the northwestern tribal belt.
There have been six fresh cases reported in 2015.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Mart 2015, 17:02