by Behroz Khan
She is cursing her fate and those religious clerics who misguided her not to vaccinate her son Qasim Omar for Polio. But, the damage done is irreversible. Mrs Omar is now crying over spilled milk.
Mrs. Omar has eleven children, and Qasim, her youngest child who is paralyzed while the rest of her children are polio free and healthy because they had been properly vaccinated. Qasim was nine-months old when the disease attacked and crippled him forever.
“Our polio teams were repeatedly dodged. The mother, influenced by the clerics would hide Qasim whenever we visited the family,” revealed Qazi Musarat, Lady Health Supervisor Peshawar to VOA Deewa.
Alarm Bells Keep Ringing:
Sixty two new polio cases have been reported in Pakistan in 2014, almost all of whom are Pashtuns from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA, where militant groups and religious clerics have banned polio campaign.
“According to our data, 198 polio cases were reported in 2011. However, the number dropped to 58 due to a rigorous campaigning in 2012. These numbers shot up again in 2013 and the reported cases in the previous year stood at 93,” said Shadab Younas, media coordinator UNICEF.
“I was also kept in the dark by my wife about Qasim. I did not know that Qasim was not receiving his polio drops. Now, I tell my wife to put Qasim to the axe and split him in two to rid him of his paralyzed half,” a dejected Omar Khan told Qazi Musarrat.
Doctors say, Qasim is a constant threat to other siblings and close relatives as the virus can transfer to others. Doctors say that the stool of a polio victim carries the contagious polio virus.
Pakistanis Face Ban on Travel:
In light of the WHO’s recommendations, Pakistanis face an impending ban on travelling abroad due to fears that the virus might spread to other regions. The expected ban has prompted Islamabad to arrange polio drops at all the International airports throughout the country and issuance of polio-free certificates to all the citizens travelling overseas. So much so, that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif imposed travel restrictions on the people of FATA. In order to travel to the settled areas, the people of FATA need to have polio vaccination certificates. And inter-provincial travelling is also likely to be restricted, the Punjab government recently asked people from FATA and Pakhtunkhwa to produce polio-free certificates before entering the province.
“We fear that the world might name the virus as the ‘Pashtun virus’, if polio is not eradicated in the northern parts of Pakistan, mainly the Pashtun areas,” said Dr. Kaleem, Deputy Head of the polio campaign for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
According to Ilyas Dori, an Islamabad-based official of WHO, the polio virus is surfacing like an epidemic in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The data shows that Pakistan beats rest of the world in documenting polio cases at the moment.
Mulla Narrative Reigns Supreme:
“The increase in polio cases is mainly due to security reasons. Kids in inaccessible areas are more prone to the polio virus as compared to cases where parents refuse polio drops for their children. The militant attacks on polio teams also raise doubts about the nature of the polio campaign among the people,” said Dr. Imtiaz, Focal Person on Polio Campaign Pakhtunkhwa.
Majority of the polio cases are reported in North Waziristan Agency where Pakistan signed a Peace Agreement with local Taliban in 2007, under which the tribal areas are not to be used for terrorism. The agreement states that the writ of the government will not be challenged by militants. However, the local Taliban imposed a ban on polio vaccinations in 2012. According to official data, out of the 62 reported cases this year, 41 are from North Waziristan alone, five from Bannu, four from Peshawar, four in South Waziristan, two in Khyber Agency, one in Frontier Region (FR) Bannu and five from Karachi.
The bloody anti-polio drive spins around decrees issued by radical mullah’s calling upon the faithful, warning them that the use of polio vaccines are un-Islamic and part of Western conspiracy hatched by non-believers to kill fertility amongst Muslim men and to turn Muslim women vulnerable to obscenity and vulgarity. Anti-polio Mullahs insist that the vaccine hastens the age of puberty in girls. Another, Mullah evoked theory suggests that polio vaccinations carry the fat of swine, which explicitly prohibited in Islam.
More than 40 vaccinators and security personnel have been killed and injured in militant attacks so far. Security officials believe that attacks on polio teams increased after the Dr. Shakil Afridi case where he is accused of having run a fake polio vaccination campaign in order to acquire the whereabouts of the terrorist mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in 2011.