The attacks on Wednesday began in Shero Jhangi area on Charsadda Road in the provincial capital when armed motorcyclists opened fire on a team of anti-polio vaccinators. A male volunteer, Hilal, sustained critical bullet injuries in the attack and was rushed to the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) in Peshawar where he was operated upon. Doctors said his condition was critical.
Almost at the same time, a team of anti-polio vaccinators was attacked in Behram Killay in Nowshera, while another team was assaulted in Garhi Zardad in Charsadda.Despite the attacks, the officials of the KP Health Department announced that the campaign would continue.
A couple of hours later, polio supervisor Zakia Begum and driver Ayaz were shot dead when they were on the way to Tarkha village in the limits of Battagram Police Station in Shabqadar area in Charsadda.
Police said that earlier two lady polio workers, identified as Ayesha and Tahira, were proceeding to take part in the anti-polio drive when unidentified motorcyclists opened fire on them on Nowshera Road in Dheri Zardad in the limits of Nisatta Police Station.
The two women remained unharmed in the ambush. The attackers riding a motorcycle escaped from the scene. In the third incident in Charsadda, two masked men intercepted two lady polio workers in Sheikhu Union Council when they were on the way to carry out vaccination.
The gunmen threatened both the workers not to participate in the drive or else they would suffer the same fate that one Farzana Bibi had faced in Peshawar and four females had met in Karachi.
Charsadda District Coordination Officer (DCO) Syed Zafar Ali Shah said the anti-polio campaign had been halted after the attacks.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain on Tuesday had tried to hush up the matter, saying on the floor of the provincial assembly that the girl killed in Peshawar had nothing to do with anti-polio campaign as her family had some personal enmity.
The police also tried to divert the attention of the media by raiding the house of her fiancé Farooq, and arresting his father from Hazarkhwani village near Peshawar on Tuesday. Farzana, along with her sister, Amna, was on her way to administer anti-polio drops to the children when she was attacked in Tirayee Payan village on Tuesday.
Some polio workers criticised the KP government and police for not taking Tuesday’s attacks seriously that resulted in the death of two more people.A source said that the WHO and Unicef officials took up the matter with the federal government and demanded proper security for the anti-polio teams.
Meanwhile, the WHO and Unicef in a joint statement together with the government and their Pakistani partners condemned the multiple attacks on polio workers and termed those killed and injured, many of whom women, as among hundreds of thousands of heroes who work selflessly to eradicate polio and provide health services to children in Pakistan.For these coordinated attacks to succeed, the Taliban must have done a very professional job of intelligence-gathering. They knew their targets and where to find them. They may even have relied on supporters working within the anti-polio campaign itself.