Written by Sajjad Shaukat
Polio is a deadly virus with its crippling affects which paralyze the children, and thus gives a greater blow to a nation. Discovery of anti-polio vaccine has made it possible to eliminate the virus and make the environment free of polio infection.
In the recent past, Indian government through its High Commissioner has advised the Pakistani travelers visiting to Indian cities to produce a Polio Vaccination Certificate prior to resumption of their tours to India. Moreover, these certificates must be carried by the Pakistani travelers’ stay in India. They have also asked for a list of hospitals, doctors and vaccines in Pakistan. There are reports that Indian intelligence agency RAW is involved in sponsoring and engaging attacks on the polio worker-teams in Pakistan. The aim of Indian scheme is to defame Pakistan at international level—on health issues, particularly on perils of polio.
While, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially certified India and nine other Asian countries, namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, South Korea, Indonesia, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and East Timor as polio free. India where 150, 000 cases of paralytic polio were reported in 1985 and 741 cases in 2009, but with all inclusive efforts and cooperation offered by Indian people, the country has joined the list of those countries which have been declared by WHO as polio free.
Regrettably, for every Pakistani, it is a momentous victory of India over a crippling plague by the WHO. Unfortunately, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria have been enlisted as countries stained and infected with the deadly virus.
On the other hand, the WHO has ignored the fact that India is the largest “HIV/AIDS” virus infected country, and many innocent people from different countries have already contracted HIV/AIDS after interacting with Indian nationals. Therefore, Pakistan Government needs to filter Indian nationals, visiting Pakistan after placing stringent testing mechanism to reveal that those visiting Pakistan are HIV/AIDS free. This will enable Islamabad to control a real health hazard which will pierce into Pakistan through Indian visitors.
However, Taliban, particularly those of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), under the garb of religion have started a stupid and foolish campaign to oppose polio vaccination scheme in the country. It is crippling mentality of religious zealots in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, the tribal areas and Karachi, who are not allowing polio workers to administer anti-polio vaccine and make our own people safe against the crippling virus. It is shame on such fanatic people who are simply resorting to self-immolation and self-destruction. Islam permits administering of anti-polio vaccine, as it makes future life safer against the deadly virus.
It is notable that the Taliban militants had attacked the anti-polio workers in Karachi in wake of the peace talks with the government, and accepted responsibility in this respect. Besides, a number of assaults by the TTP insurgents have continued on the polio workers in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and the FATA. They even did not spare the ladies who were going house to house in order to eliminate the polio virus by giving drops to the children. Police and the personnel of the law-enforcing agencies were also targeted by these culprits, as they were providing security to the polio-teams.
Taking cognizance of the terrorists’ attack, the UNO stopped its anti-polio campaign in Pakistan. This is what the Taliban wanted. In fact, playing in the hands of some foreign powers, these militants have been tarnishing the image of Pakistan abroad.
No doubt, majority of the women of these regions were cooperating with the polio-teams, but these merciless Taliban created a phenomenon of fear and terror for them through threats. These terrorists also misguided the innocent people through propaganda that polio vaccination scheme is un-Islamic.
It is heartening to note that polio as an ancient scourge is very much treatable as scientific quests to find anti-polio vaccine enable man to fight and eliminate the deadly disease. It simply requires positive mind-set and concern for future generations. We cannot afford to cripple our future generation by opposing anti-polio campaign which is available free of cost.
Pakistan government, media, politicians, members of the civil society and especially religious scholars must take the WHO findings seriously and actions must be taken to eliminate the curse of polio from Pakistan.
In this regard, the government of Pakistan must undertake measures to provide protection to polio administering volunteers, and the law-enforcing agencies, enabling them to manage successful completion of anti-polio campaign. The government must pass legislation that without polio certification, no admissions in school, registration with NADRA, obtaining of educational certificates and passports will be allowed.
Undoubtedly, anti-polio vaccine plan is very much permissible in Islam. Propaganda that it is un-Islamic is not only ridiculous but a wicked conspiracy against our future generation, designed to create serious health hazards for Pakistan. So, particularly, our country’s religious scholars must issue Fatwas (Verdicts) that administration of polio drops which is a religious compulsion on every Muslim is Halal (legitimate), and is very much in line with the Islamic teachings, while Taliban propaganda is totally un-Islamic and baseless.
It should be propagated through media that polio is to be fought to make the coming life safe in Pakistan. Pakistan belongs to our future generation and we cannot cripple them for nothing.
In this connection, all Pakistanis have a responsibility to support anti-polio campaign and facilitate administration of polio vaccine to the children. This will enable us to eliminate the dangerous health hazards.
Criminals involved in targeted killing of polio workers must be condemned and all communities must cooperate with the law-enforcing agencies to punish them.
Instead of waiting for other countries to impose restrictions on Pakistani nationals’ visiting abroad to produce polio certification, Pakistan must make rules that polio vaccination is a pre-requisite to proceed abroad without which no body can go abroad.
Nevertheless, Let us put up a collective and brave stance to counter anti-polio plots by cooperating with polio workers and law-enforcing agencies in order to make Pakistan, a polio free country.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations