PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai on Monday expressed grave concern over boycott of polio vaccination by traders in Bannu and said polio is never less than terrorism.

Traders in Bannu staged a protest demonstration against the sales tax imposed by the government and announced to boycott the upcoming anti-polio campaign in the district unless the government withdraws the new tax.

In a video message after the traders’ rally, Shaukat Yousafzai said the tax regime will stay and immunisation campaign will also go ahead as scheduled. He said the government will welcome traders for talks to address their genuine issues. He said those trying to sabotage the immunisation campaign will face strict action by the government. The minister further said that there is no link between sales tax and the vaccination campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said traders should refrain from such tactics, otherwise, they will face strict action. Shaukat Yousafzai said the government will never succumb to such tactics of the traders and will go ahead with its taxes and immunisation campaigns.

The minister said it is the responsibility of the government to provide full-fledged security to polio vaccination teams in all parts of the province. He said the government never stepped back from polio vaccination even during militancy in some areas and it will never stop this practice in future until elimination of the disease from Pakistan. He said no one will be allowed to put the future of the country in danger for vested interests.

The minister said polio is not less than terrorism. “Just like we have defeated terrorism, we will defeat polio in the country and the province,” he added.

Health experts say vaccination is the only way to prevent the spread of poliovirus. Boycott of vaccination campaigns by people increase the risk of spread of the dangerous disease.

The refusal cases in Bannu are creating more concern for the KP government because recently many polio cases have been reported in Bannu. The Emergency Operation Centre says the main reason behind emergence of polio cases is refusal by parents to administer anti-polio vaccine to their children.