Islamabad: Pakistan has partly retracted its allegation that UN agencies were involved in CIA’s fake vaccination programme to trace Osama bin Laden in the country following a formal complaint lodged by the WHO.
The global health body rejected as “erroneous” Pakistan’s allegation on May 8 which alleged the involvement of UN agencies in events conducted by Shakeel Afridi, the doctor who helped the US spy agency trace the al Qaeda chief in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad.
In a statement yesterday, the Geneva-based WHO said it is “deeply concerned” by the circulation of the “incorrect statement” made by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Foreign Office has changed its statement after the World Health Organisation objected and in place of the United Nation agencies, it has used “some international NGOs” in transcript posted on its website.
“WHO reiterates that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever between WHO and the ‘fake vaccination campaign’ conducted by Dr Afridi,” the UN body said.
Following the statement, the UN “formally objected to the Government of Pakistan, from which it immediately received assurances that the statement made by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was categorically incorrect and made in error”.
“WHO welcomes this clarification by the Government and trusts that the erroneous statement will be fully retracted,” said the statement, in which the agency reaffirmed its “unequivocal position” that all health programmes, including immunisation campaigns, must be used only for their intended humanitarian purpose of protecting and promoting health.
WHO continues to categorically deplore the use of health interventions for any other reason, it said.
Militants and gunmen frequently attack vaccination teams in Pakistan, accusing them of being Western spies and part of a plot to “sterilise” Muslims.
Accusations that immunisation campaigns are cover for spies were given credence after the killing of bin Laden in 2011 by US Navy SEALs.
Afridi is alleged to have helped US track down Laden through a vaccination campaign held in Abbottabad.