By Muhammad Nauman Awan
The very fact that Pakistan is included in one of the three countries in the world where polio remains a threat to date, and the globe perceives the Pakistanis to be a potential threat for the children of other nations, leads to a distressed feeling.
The latest report on detection of another polio case in Shabqadar Tehsil of Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) – where Muhammad Raheem (02 years old) has been diagnosed with the virus- has brought the number of polio-affected children in the country during the current year to 23.
Notwithstanding the indigenous justifications, off the natural loyalty sentiment, the abysmal performance of the governments of all times, terrorism and illiteracy, the generic causes of endemic disease in the country, remain untenable. The situation is more likely to prevail and perpetuate if we continue to await the divine help sans moving a step forward.
However, efforts on part of Iqbal International Institute for Research & Dialogue (IRD) – a constituent unit of the International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI) – have paved the way to mull as to what vision we would require to fight against the disease and save the future of the nation. The Institute’s roadmap underpins that the government as well as rest of the bodies working against the disease could come up with essential significant solution if they utilized the think-tanks such as IRD of IIUI.
Circumstances demand that meaningful efforts be put in and IRD’s vision, on this score, be lauded. IRD has already held a successful training program for leaders of the Tribal Area which has, regrettably, become the most sensitive sanctuary and epicenter of the disease.
Rumors, misconceptions and lack of knowledge about Polio vaccination are some of the keynote barriers towards befitting remedial measures. Such trainings, as undertaken by IRD, would result in positive development as the tribal people have been living with a lot of prejudices vis a vis polio vaccine.
Indubitably, religious misconceptions have been the biggest constraint in smooth sailing of the polio-campaigns. Viewed in this context, the remedy extended by IRD not only makes sense but also provides guidelines to the government to join hands with the Institute which has had, already, published a leaf-let containing twenty (20) Fatwaas from the top-ranking Jamias (Universities) of Pakistan whereby Muftian hailing from different sects have rendered explicit verdicts that polio vaccination is Halal and it is obligatory on part of every Muslim to contribute in the campaign for Polio eradication.
International Islamic University, in collaboration with WHO and efforts of the Institute, has already organized an International Conference on Polio Eradication in the Light of Islam which was joined by the eminent scholars, medical experts, Ulema (religious scholars) and Muftian across Pakistan and abroad, who reiterated that Polio eradication was Halal and passed Fatwa that killing of Polio workers was Haram [sheerly forbidden].
It is high time to employ emergency steps especially when Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for Global Polio Program has already pronounced, “If the Programme simply continues as it is, Pakistan is very likely to be the polio virus’ last home on earth, with the entire global community spending huge sums of money simply to keep Pakistan polio virus out of their countries.”
We need some practical steps with the help of visionary efforts from the institutes and organizations such as IRD because the the-disease-that-cripples has also led to an embarrassment when polio cases in Syria, Egypt were linked to Pakistan. Where would we stand if a country stops its flight operations, bans visa entry to its territory for Pakistani citizens for the sake of keeping its children safe and healthy from a disease which has been controlled even in less developed states of the world?
The Iqbal Institute for Research & Dialogue has opened a window, by leaving a strong message, for the figures of political circles and NGOs that meaningful steps with a practical vision are the only way to get rid of the threat. The political circles must ponder over devising constructive, meaningful and effective strategies to make Pakistan a polio-free nation for it would be too late in a few years.