Five Polio Workers in Pakistan Killed in Further Fallout From Panetta’s Leak

Providing more evidence that perhaps the best move President Obama can make for world affairs is to quickly appoint a new Secretary of Defense so that Leon Panetta can retire to a soundproof booth, five more polio workers in Pakistan paid with their lives for Panetta’s leak that conclusively tied Dr. Shakil Afridi and a vaccination ruse to the CIA effort to identify and kill Osama bin Laden. The tragic shootings in Pakistan consisted of three separate incidents in Karachi and one in Peshawar.

Dawn summarizes various news services’ reports on the shootings:

Four were killed in three different incidents in the port city of Karachi and the fifth in the northwestern city of Peshawar, on the second day of a nationwide three-day drive against the disease, which is endemic in Pakistan.

All of the victims were Pakistanis working with a UN-backed programme to eradicate polio.

Sagheer Ahmed, the health minister for Sindh province said he had ordered a halt to the anti-polio drive in the city in the wake of the shootings.

These killings come on the heels of previous incidents:

On Monday, police said a gunman killed a volunteer for the World Health Organization’s anti-polio campaign was shot dead on the city outskirts in Gadap Town.

Earlier in July 2012, a local paramedic associated with the polio vaccination was shot dead and a World Health Organisation doctor, Fosten Dido, from Ghana along with his driver were wounded in two separate attacks in the Sohrab Goth area.

WHO, a partner in government efforts to eradicate the disease, suspended vaccination activities in part of Pakistan’s largest city in July after a spate of bloody shootings.

These killings come just under three weeks since it was announced that Dr. Afridi had started a hunger strike at Peshawar Central Jail after the jail retaliated against him for his telephone interview with Fox News. Since the report of the start of the hunger strike, the jail has fired the guard whose phone was used for the interview, but I’ve seen no further reports on the status (or whereabouts) of Afridi. That is striking, since the report on Afridi’s hunger strike appeared within 24 hours of its apparent start. Further, we learn from the New York Times today that US funds for Pakistan’s military have once again begun to flow, despite repeated threats from various members of Congress that these funds would be blocked until Afridi is released from jail. These events also take place in the wake of Panetta’s ham-handed “clarification” last week on the status of Pakistan’s cooperation in anti-terrorism activity.

The Times article tells us that the Pentagon notified Congress of the release of funds to Pakistan on December 7, just a week after the Afridi hunger strike started on November 30. Is Afridi still in Peshawar Central Jail or has he been quietly released and removed from the country as part of the normalization of US-Pakistan relations?

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

8 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    A little background

    our species is just short of elinating polio worldwide.

    this would be only the second major disease for which we have been able to do this, smallpox being the first.

    there are three countries in the world where polio is still endemic – Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, all in severe cultural, religious, ethnic conflict.

    those who volunteers risking their lives, and knowing ahead of time they were doing just that, come from all o er the globe. Pakistan volunteers included a co tingent of Chinese, for example.

  2. orionATL says:

    from todays (12/18/12) nytimes:

    “…Despite the negative perceptions, the government has pressed ahead with a large polio vaccination campaign, usually conducted in three-day spurts involving tens of thousands of health workers who administer medicine to children under 5…”

    “…For Pakistan’s beleaguered progressives, the attack on female health workers was another sign of how the country’s extremist fringe would stoop to attack the vulnerable and minorities.

    “Ahmadis, Shias, Hazaras, Christians, child activists, doctors, anti-polio workers — who’s next on the target list, Pakistan?” asked Mira Hashmi, a lecturer in film studies at the Lahore School of Economics, in a post on Twitter…”

  3. FrankProbst says:

    My thoughts on using a vaccine program as a CIA front are:

    1. Don’t.

    2. If you violate rule #1, don’t get caught.

    3. If you violate rule #2, the CIA should have had enough sense to set the whole thing up so that they could deny it all, and you’re on your own.

    4. Even if the CIA gets caught red-handed, they should STILL deny it all to try to prevent things like this from happening.

    And why are we still sending money to Pakistan?

  4. Jim White says:

    @FrankProbst: Panetta clearly violated #4. He did so in a spectacularly stupid fashion, as well.

    I also agree with #1. Going down this path in the first place was a horrible decision that guaranteed that murders like those we saw today would happen.

    I’m more sanguine on the money going to Pakistan. I’m beginning to come around to the belief that the current regime in Pakistan is realizing that there are some policy aspects where their interests align with working to calm things down in Afghanistan. I am very much in favor of any moves of that nature that can be taken.

  5. Anonymous Coward says:

    Funny how the larger geopolitical currents are left out of the dawn article, and instead you get “OMG uncivilized savages in failed state killing medical workers for funsies” Instead of ‘High ranking US government agent selectively declassifies identities of assets, who are then arrested by their governments for treason, or killed by vigilantes.’

  6. P J Evans says:

    If they prosecuted Kiriakou and Manning for doing far less damage to whatever-they-think-we’re-doing in Pakistan, why shouldn’t Panetta be investigated and charged for doing actual damage to actual humanitarian projects, for which we mostly likely a major source of funds?

  7. mlnw says:

    PJ Evans: You’re absolutely right, and you might include Assange and others in that group as well. (I suppose you already have.) What we have seen is that whistleblowers who disclose official criminality or wrongdoing are prosecuted despite the government’s failure and/or inability to show that it suffered harm from the disclosure, while higher-ups who reveal and disseminate classified information- e.g., for political advantage- where the disclosure causes, or may cause, death or harm, are given a pass.

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