Bill Gates discusses cooperation with Pakistani general
The influential chief of the Pakistani Army, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has held a phone conversation with billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, reassuring him that Islamabad is committed to working with the Microsoft co-founder’s foundation on eradicating polio and other global health initiatives.
In an exchange that took place on Friday, Gates praised the Pakistan Army for “supporting the country's polio drive and ensuring proper reach and coverage,” while Bajwa said, “credit goes to all involved in the process,” according to a Saturday statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations.
Gates also commended Pakistan’s efforts in battling the Covid-19 pandemic; Bajwa again attributed it to a “true national response” by multiple agencies. The army chief applauded Gates’ global health efforts, and reportedly assured the philanthropist of “continued cooperation.”
On Tuesday, the newly elected prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, also held a phone conversation with the billionaire philanthropist, receiving reassurances that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) will continue supporting Pakistan’s government to help ensure that no child is at risk of being paralyzed by polio.
The country had gone more than a year without a single new polio case – a feat that Gates hailed after traveling to Islamabad to meet with then-Prime Minister Imran Khan in February – but in April, officials confirmed two new infections in 15 months.
Pakistan’s parliament elected Sharif as prime minister last month, after Khan was ousted in a no-confidence motion. Khan had claimed that his cabinet was overthrown in a plot arranged by the US and that Pakistan was being handed over to an “imported government led by crooks.”
Pakistan has fought an uphill battle to inoculate children against polio, in part due to anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. Militants have targeted public health workers and the police that protect them to disrupt vaccination drives. A female worker administering polio shots in northwestern Pakistan was shot and killed in March.