Pakistan: More polio cases if resistance continues; Islamic clerics say those who die of polio are ‘martyrs’
ISLAMABAD: The National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) fear that more polio cases will crop up in the Bajaur and Malakand agencies since workers are denied access to children amid threats by Taliban-backed clerics, Daily Times learnt on Monday.A senior official at the NIH said that health authorities had confirmed yet another polio case in the Nowshera. He said that the polio victim was originally from the Bajaur Agency. In addition, the Health Ministry has also reported three more confirmed polio cases in urban and rural Sindh.
The clerics, including Tehreek Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) leader Maulana Fazlullah and his supporters in the Malakand Agency, have been ‘warning’ people during sermons in mosques or through illegal FM radio stations not to administer polio drops to their children since it was against religious norms and brought infertility. Maulana Fazlullah is the son-in-law of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, ex-chief of the TNSM.
To complete the polio immunisation drive, the WHO and the Ministry of Health are contemplating enlisting the help of the district/tehsil and union council nazims, political and religious leaders, public representatives and tribal elders, sources said.
Some religious leaders in the Bajaur and Malakand agencies are telling the people not to get their children vaccinated since the practice is un-Islamic, and that those that die of polio would be considered martyrs.