2 anti-polio workers killed in FATA

A Pakistani health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a child during a polio campaign in Karachi on March 14, 2018. Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world where polio, a crippling childhood disease, remains endemic. (AFP/Asif Hassan)
Updated 18 March 2018
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2 anti-polio workers killed in FATA

PESHAWAR: An official handout circulated by Mohmand Agency’s political administration confirmed on Sunday that a group of unidentified assailants ambushed a seven-member anti-polio monitoring team in the area on Saturday, killing two of its workers.
The handout announced that five other members of the same team went missing immediately after the incident, adding that the authorities launched an extensive search operation in response and finally managed to recover them.
However, a contingent of security personnel also came under fire while combing the area for miscreants and the lost team members in which a Frontier Constabulary soldier lost his life and two others were injured
The team had gone into Mohmand Agency for post-vaccination campaign monitoring when a group of unidentified assailants ambushed its members, Aqeel Ahmed, an official at the FATA Emergency Operations Center, told Arab News.
Such attacks greatly demoralize anti-polio workers, and vaccination campaigns have often been suspended because of them, he said.
Militants in the restive tribal region have frequently targeted anti-polio workers in the recent past, leaving children vulnerable to the disease.
It is a risky job administering polio vaccinations to children, said Arsalan Ahmed, an anti-polio worker in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
“I came to know about the Mohmand Agency attack in the morning, but I don’t want to reveal it to the vaccinators in our area because it will greatly demoralize them,” he added.
Vaccinators feel unsafe while performing their duty since they do not get a police escort, said polio monitor Akhtar Ali. 
But during anti-polio campaigns, police contingents are deployed at entry and exit points in various localities, he added.


‘Makkah Road Initiative’ to fast-track Malaysian and Indonesian Hajj pilgrims

Updated 9 min 22 sec ago
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‘Makkah Road Initiative’ to fast-track Malaysian and Indonesian Hajj pilgrims

KUALA LUMPUR: Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia have joined forces to launch the “Makkah Road Initiative” this year, a pre-clearance system that will help Hajj pilgrims to fast-track journeys to the Holy Land.
Two flights carrying Hajj pilgrims were commissioned at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to mark the official launch, which was attended by officials from Malaysia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
According to Minister in the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office for Islamic Affairs, Dr. Mujahid Yusuf, who also launched the Makkah Road Initiative, pilgrims will no longer have to wait in long queues to finalize documentation such as visa stamps, customs, and health screenings.
“All these will be sorted out in KLIA, and when our (Malaysian) pilgrims arrive (in Madinah), they can just take the bus to the hotel. Their luggage will be managed by the Saudi authorities,” Dr. Yusuf added.
A world first, the initiative has been made possible by multi-agency collaboration within Saudi Arabia, as well as weeks of preparation by officials in the Kingdom, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The Makkah Road Initiative will cut time and entrance procedures for pilgrims from Malaysia and Indonesia to Saudi Arabia through a “unified electronic paths” and “pre-clearance procedures” before arrival at Madinah airport, according to officials.
The services provided under the initiative include issuing visas, customs and passport procedures, facilitating health requirements, baggage management, and housing arrangements in Makkah.
The initiative also involves checking off the pilgrims’ entry visas into the Kingdom at the airport when the flight departs. Travel arrangements will be “confirmed electronically”, including health requirements where pilgrims can skip the paper documents on vaccines at the airport in their own country.
Fingerprints and passports are to be taken and stamped “electronically” in their home country before departure. Pilgrims will fly from either the Kuala Lumpur International Airport or the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, and will arrive at the Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz in Madinah.
The pilgrims will check out at the airport arrival hall “like a domestic flight” while their luggage will be sorted to their places of residence by the Ministry of Hajj.
With an increasing number of Muslim pilgrims to Makkah each year, the Saudi Arabian government has made serious efforts to streamline the process.
“We really appreciate this progress by the Kingdom,” said Zainol Rahim Zainuddin, Malaysian ambassador to the Kingdom, adding that the initiative showcased the close partnership between the governments of the Kingdom and Malaysia.
Indonesia, which has the biggest Muslim population in the world, had 221,000 of pilgrims arriving in Makkah last year. Malaysia, a Muslim majority nation, increased its number of pilgrims to 31,300 in 2017 from an initial projection of 30,200.
The Makkah Road Initiative is part of the National Transition Programs (2020). It aims to fulfil the Vision 2030 objective of having well-developed public services and infrastructure throughout the Kingdom.