No time for conspiracies: Pakistan desperately needs to eradicate polio

Our children are suffering, our medics are attacked - only because of a conspiracy.

With yesterday’s drama, the concerns have risen. But do we have time for conspiracies now? We can’t afford to fall prey to them anymore. We will not let the nest of terrorists determine our direction anymore. 

 Pakistan is among the only three countries still crippled by polio – along with war-torn Afghanistan and Nigeria. 

Nothing has challenged Pakistan’s democratic essence like the organised and planned campaign jeopardizing polio vaccines. Leaving our children crippled and health workers dead, we can’t afford to pay the cost anymore. We have no time to fall for conspiracies. 

The History Behind Polio Wars: 

From where we can put our finger on it, the conspiracy theory originally originated in Nigeria in 2003. A physician and hardline Islamist Dr Ibrahim Datti Ahmed said that polio-vaccine is a plot by the West to reduce the Muslim population and cause infertility. By mid-2004, the theory had unfortunately plagued India. By 2005, 16 countries that were previously declared polio-free saw cases of polio. By 2012, the crippling disease was now only restricted to three countries – Pakistan being among them. 

June, the same year, Pakistani Taliban commander Gul Bahadur issued a fatwa, clearly threatening anyone using the polio vaccines of dire consequences. 

“a ban on [the] polio vaccination campaign from today… anybody who disrespects this order will not have the right to complain about any loss or harm.” – he announced.

Later that month, the things took a further threatening turn. Pakistani authorities released details about a Pakistani medic Shakil Afridi, who was allegedly hired by CIA in 2011 to create fake vaccine (of Hepatitis B, not polio) to confirm whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. 

The debunked, fabricated theory was now armed with ‘evidence’. The Taliban leaders declared that they can’t simply allow vaccinations when they have the case of Shakil Afridi in front of them. The outcome? A spike of polio cases in Pakistan during 2012, particularly in tribal areas, and target killings of the medics. 

While we have come a long way in our fight against polio, yesterday’s events rang the red signs, once again. 

Source: Emerging Pakistan

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government recently launched a 3-day long anti-polio drive. All went smooth until few elements launched a malicious campaign against it and a fake video went viral inciting locals against the vaccine. With ignorance, it cannot be ruled that anti-polio campaigns have been used as a political tool in the past as well.

During the three day campaign, polio workers were to visit schools and madrassas to administer the oral polio vaccine to children between five to 10 years of age. But after the fake video went viral and the reports about children of a private school in Peshawar’s Madina Colony (run by hardline Islamists) were brought to the Maulvi Jee Hospital on the GT Road with complaints of deteriorating health, incidents of violence targetting the campaign were reported.

The news spread like wildfire but authorities, acting promptly, swiftly and responsibly were quick to expose the drama. 

The hoax was exposed, and the video showed the children were perfectly healthy and were asked to ‘pretend’ to be sick. The authorities acted swiftly, deserving all the appreciation, and made arrests in the regard. Nazar Mohammad, the prime suspect, was put behind the bars and it was announced that the drive against polio with continue.

 

Our children still suffering from a crippling disease and our medics killed – all because of a conspiracy.
Being among the only three countries still facing it while the rest of the world has successfully eradicated it, we can’t literally afford to fall prey to these hoaxes and conspiracies anymore.

~ Despite differences, here we stand together, for a polio-free Pakistan.

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