Dr Shahzad Baig confirms resigning as head of anti-polio programme

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Dr Shahzad Baig confirms resigning as head of anti-polio programme

ISLAMABAD, MAY 31: Dr Shahzad Baig, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme’s national coordinator, said he was resigning from his post due to “personal reasons”.

Dr Baig, who was featured in the list of 100 world leaders in the field of health by Time magazine, himself confirmed the reason behind his resignation to Geo News.

The development was confirmed by Dr Baig a few days after Islamabad decided to hire a government official to head the polio programme.

The former national coordinator’s resignation comes after he faced severe criticism for the spread of polio in the country with the virus confirmed in at least 153 environmental samples across 39 districts.

So far, three children have been affected by the poliovirus in Pakistan.

Earlier today, government officials told The News that a bureaucrat will lead the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) for polio after being perturbed by the resurgence of poliovirus across Pakistan in the last two years.

“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has decided to replace the incumbent National Coordinator of the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), Dr Shahzad Baig, with a government official of BPS 21 or above to lead the operational side of polio eradication initiative following resurgence of poliovirus in recent years,” an official of the National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination (NHSR&C) told the publication.

Meanwhile, the official maintained that Dr Baig could continue as a technical advisor for the polio programme at his discretion, but administrative decisions would now be made by an official appointed by the government.

According to the official, the wild poliovirus is spreading rapidly in Pakistan. In 2023, 126 environmental samples tested positive for poliovirus in 28 districts.

The official mentioned that a notification regarding the appointment of a new national coordinator is expected soon, claiming that even the partner organisations, which previously supported Dr Baig, have agreed on his replacement with a government official.

“Actually, Dr Shahzad Baig is not a Government of Pakistan employee, which led to coordination issues that derailed the polio programme. Provincial coordinators and other senior government officials had complaints about him, and some even sent letters to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif against him,” the official further claimed.