Over 200 polio cases were officially reported during 2011, and this year in 2012, it is going to be even worse despite some precautionary measures are being taken. There are so many factors contributing towards the rise in polio cases in Pakistan, for example widespread corruption on the organisational level, poor planning, lack of public awareness campaigns, religious mindset, illiteracy, etc. I was surprised to find that among all these factors, the religious mindset is topping the list to hamper the polio eradication programme.
Various research groups of epidemiologists believe that religious opposition by Muslim fundamentalists is a major factor in the failure of immunisation programmes against polio in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The religious conflict in the tribal areas of Pakistan is one of the biggest hindrances towards effective polio vaccinations. Epidemiologists have detected transmission of wild poliovirus from polio-endemic districts in Afghanistan, most of which are located in the southern region of the country bordering Pakistan. This transmission has resulted in new cases of polio in previously polio-free districts.
The local Taliban have issued ‘fatwas’ (religious edicts) denouncing vaccination as an American ploy to sterilize Muslims. Another common superstition spread by extremists is that vaccination is an attempt to avert the will of Allah. The Taliban have assassinated vaccination officials, including Abdul Ghani Marwat, who was the head of the government’s vaccination campaign in Bajaur Agency in the Pakistani tribal areas. It deeply troubles me to inform that over the past year, several kidnappings and beatings of vaccinators have been reported. This is the picture depicted by various research groups of epidemiologists that why Pakistan is safe heavens for polio virus, it is not wrong to say that more or less same factors are also responsible for making Pakistan’s tribal areas safe heavens for Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists.
Now come to another part of this sorry saga. Some sections of Pakistani media are propagating baseless rumors that CIA fake polio vaccination campaign is the sole cause of spreading polio in country. Interestingly, none other than Pakistani media highlighted and spread false rumors about CIA polio vaccination campaign and in this way it created panic in Pakistan. Story is very simple, An brave civilian named Dr. Shakil Afridi booked on treason charges for allegedly fake polio vaccination campaign to find hideouts of world’s most deadliest terrorist OBL. He was arrested on may 22, 2011, exactly twenty days after OBL killing by American Navy SEALs. Since OBL killing on may 2, 2011, there were unending widespread rumors been propagated by media that Dr. Shakil Afridi had conducted fake Oral Polio Vaccination(OPV) to take DNA samples to hit his specific target that was OBL. These false rumors made negative impact on polio eradication program in Pakistan.
Since may, 2011 to date around 200 cases have been reported in country. People of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of the country refused to administer drops to their children after these reports. Allegations of fake polio vaccination; are no more than an illusion, because this myth is far from scientific basis. WHO’s special envoy on global polio eradication and primary healthcare, Dr Hussain A. Gezari is of the view that alleged fake immunisation conducted by Dr Shakil Afridi had nothing to do with polio campaigns as DNA cannot be collected orally. Let me make it clear that Dr. Shakil Afridi had conducted actual vaccination campaign. He served the nation. Some sections of society and media was deliberately highlighting this issue to hamper polio vaccination campaign.
They were not serving the nation they were playing their negative role. Infact they were accomplice to crime in spreading polio virus and polio cases in Pakistan. It is surprising to me that those forces, who were playing thier nefarious role in spreading polio virus in our country, they have gone scot free. And prisoner of conscience ‘Dr. Shakil Afridi’ is under cunstody of secret agencies on account for helping to trace whereabouts of OBL. as far as (OPV) oral polio vaccination is concerned, DNA samples cannot be collected, He might have conducted some sort of another immunization campaign in which injectables are used. Whatsoever it was, but Dr. Shakil Afridi did great job for humanity. He is brave and courageous man who put his life in danger to capture world’s number one terrorist OBL. His services rendered for humanity will be remembered forever. I would like to suggest to the democratic government that Dr. Shakil afridi should be released and there should be praise for him for his great work, because some sections media and society have exaggerated this baseless issue and now it is proving to hamper polio eradicating program in Pakistan. Government needs to declare Dr. Shakil Afridi as ‘prisoner of conscience’ without any delay to end this controversy, a
stigma attached with Polio vaccination campaign. Civilian government must not accept pressure of military establishment over this issue.