Save our children, kill polio

TTP should stand shoulder to shoulder with Pakistanis and allow polio workers to operate across country without fear.

Aftab Arif Siddiqui June 06, 2014
The writer is founder of the online Facebook forum ‘Dialogue of the Civilisations’ and is an independent analyst based in London.

The Muslim world is collectively trying to eradicate the deadly polio virus. Two major financial commitments undertaken to pay for the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-14 consist of $227 million from the Islamic Development Bank and the Government of Pakistan and $120million from Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed. However, the biggest opposition to this initiative is from within the country itself. In 2014 so far, more than 80 new polio cases have been detected worldwide, the majority of which were detected in Pakistan. The virus is flourishing in Pakistan because of the TTP’s opposition to the polio campaign.

In 1994, when the polio immunisation campaign was launched in Pakistan, certain quarters branded it a Western plot to make our children infertile or disabled. The then prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, realised that the future of our next generation was at stake. She supported the campaign personally by taking the bold step of publicly immunising her daughter Aseefa.

Many parents followed her example leading to the early success of the campaign.

Unfortunately, the fake hepatitis immunisation project used to obtain DNA samples from Osama bin Laden’s house has damaged the credibility of community-based immunisation campaigns. Hepatitis immunisation requires an injection to be administered and in the process it can potentially extract DNA from the recipient’s body. Polio immunisation is administered orally — a non-invasive process not suited to DNA extraction. This key point has generally been lost in the wider debate. American media continues to be irresponsible on this issue. The movie, Zero Dark Thirty, shows a vaccination worker wearing a jacket with ‘polio’ written on the back approaching bin Laden’s house. Film-makers committed a factual error, exacerbating the risks to both polio workers and the campaign. I wonder if the makers of this movie have the courage to tender a public apology to the polio campaign organisers. Many polio sufferers and their families are paying a heavy price for the careless actions taken by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and further sensationalisation by the American media.

Most of the polio cases being reported in Pakistan are from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), a region largely under TTP control. Its targeting of polio workers is enabling this deadly polio virus to spread across Pakistan from Miramshah in Waziristan to Sher Shah in Karachi, crippling and killing humanity at will.

Innocent children are a defenceless target of this invisible but deadly virus. For the TTP, the time to act is now. It should stand shoulder to shoulder with common Pakistanis and allow polio workers to operate across the country without fear of death.

An online ‘Polio Petition’ has been launched through It is being signed around the globe requesting the TTP to withdraw its opposition to the polio campaign and provide full protection to the dedicated polio workers. This petition will be presented to the TTP as an appeal on behalf of all Pakistanis and global community. The link to the petition is here. I strongly urge readers of this newspaper to sign this petition today and to share the link widely among their family and friends.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2014.

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Khalid Sultan | 8 years ago | Reply

North-Wazristan is being cleared by Pak-Army and still new cases of Polio Virus are being observed. Why is it so?

Ammad | 8 years ago | Reply

I agree with Mr. Aftab Arif. But the problem is that can we get rid of this???

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