A health worker marks an infant after immunisation with anti-polio drops. – Photo by AP
A health worker marks an infant after immunisation with anti-polio drops. – Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: An alliance of Pakistani clerics will hold demonstrations across the country against the killings of polio eradication campaign workers, leaders said on Thursday, as the death toll from attacks this week rose to nine.

Tahir Ashrafi, who heads the Pakistan Ulema Council, said that 24,000 mosques associated with his organisation would preach against the killings of health workers during Friday prayers.

“Neither Pakistani customs nor Islam would allow or endorse this. Far from doing something wrong, these girls are martyrs for Islam because they were doing a service to humanity and Islam,” he said.

Ashrafi’s words are a clear signal that some of Pakistan’s powerful clergy are willing to challenge violent militants.

Gunmen on motorbikes have killed nine anti-polio campaign workers this week, including a man who died of his wounds on Thursday. Some of the dead were teenage girls.

Following the violence, the United Nations pulled back all staff involved in the vaccination campaign and Pakistani officials suspended it in some parts of the country.

“The killers of these girls are not worthy of being called Muslims or human beings,” said Maulana Asadullah Farooq, of the Jamia Manzur Islamia, one of the biggest madrassahs, or religious schools, in the city of Lahore.

“We have held special prayers for the martyrs at our mosque and will hold more prayers after Friday prayers tomorrow. We also ask other mosques to come forward and pray for the souls of these brave martyrs.”

It is not clear who is behind the killings.

Pakistani Taliban militants have repeatedly threatened anti-polio workers, saying the vaccination drive is a Muslim plot to sterilise Muslims or spy on them. But they have denied responsibility for this week’s shootings.

Suspicion of the campaign surged last year after revelations that the CIA had used the cover of a fake vaccination campaign to try to gather intelligence on Osama bin Laden before he was killed in his hideout in a Pakistani town.

But many of Pakistan’s most important clerics have issued fatwas, or decrees, in support of the polio campaign. Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia encourage vaccinations against polio, which can kill or paralyse within hours of infection.

The disagreement between some clerics and militants may be indicative of a wider drop in support for militancy in Pakistan, said Mansur Khan Mahsud, director of research at the Islamabad-based think-tank the Fata Research Center.

Opinion polls the centre carried out in ethnic Pashtun lands on the Afghan border, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), showed support for the Taliban dropping from 50 per cent 2010 to about 20 per cent in May 2012.

Mahsud said many people had welcomed the Taliban because they believed Islamic law would help address corruption and injustice. But as the Taliban began executing and kidnapping people, some turned against them.

In a widely publicised incident in October, Taliban gunman shot a 15-year-old schoolgirl campaigner for girls’ education in the head and wounded two of her classmates.

Schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai survived and the wave of condemnation that followed the attack prompted the Taliban to release statements justifying their action.

The killings of the health workers struck a similar nerve, Ashrafi said. The girls got a small stipend for their work but were motivated to try to help children, he said.

“You think they went out to administer the drops despite the threats and risked their lives for 200 rupees ($2) a day? They were there because of their essential goodness,” he said.

“Imagine what the families are going through.”

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Comments are closed.

Comments (22)

Asif Kahsmiri
December 20, 2012 8:26 am
why are they doing this? who are they? govt what are you doing? any answers anyone?
December 20, 2012 8:38 am
What do you mean its not clear who's behind the attacks? Taliban have claimed respoinsibility, what else proof is needed
December 20, 2012 1:51 pm
Folks, This is so sick you guys look everything through the prism of Islam. Religion can be used as one of the guidelines but the home work needs to be done by each individuals by himself.
Cyrus Howell
December 20, 2012 12:16 pm
No one can understand why, because this is literally Beyond Belief.
December 20, 2012 1:39 pm
Clerics and taliban are not the same,ppl need to need to stop lumping everyone together.
Cyrus Howell
December 20, 2012 12:24 pm
"Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit atrocities." -- Voltaire
December 20, 2012 8:34 am
Who made them cleric.. How pakistan can tolerate this nonsense... Spare kids life atleast
Cyrus Howell
December 20, 2012 12:11 pm
"Pakistani clerics unite to condemn polio workers’ killings. Let us thank God for that.
December 20, 2012 9:00 am
Our clerics are simply hypocrits - saying one thing but doing another. They do more harm to Islam than our enemies combined.
syed baqar ahsan
December 20, 2012 9:23 am
what quick solution or a punishment CJP should order to security forces is the real answer,it is not difficult for agencies to find out the killer and shoot him at same spot where he killed health lady visitor.
Gerry D'Cunha
December 20, 2012 9:42 am
Parvez - I fully endorse your comments and like to add, the enemies are within the faith - happy are the enemies who's work is being completed by islam clerics themself..
Muneer Mirza
December 20, 2012 2:49 pm
My message to Mr. Tahir Ashrafi and other Ulema is that praying for the souls of the martyred lady workers, or men for that matter, is not enough. You must preach and educate the attendees in each and every mosque, repeatedly, that eradication of Polio is an Islamic, national and above all a humanitarian cause. M. Mirza, USA
gir na
December 20, 2012 6:00 pm
Clerics can't do anything , because common people can't take guns in hand and now terrorists are against these clerics .
Dr Siddiqui
December 20, 2012 6:21 pm
Surely a right step the next is to accompany the health workers in their field work and actively dispel the ignorance of their communities.
December 20, 2012 6:42 pm
May Allah bless these souls and hope killer will face their fate soon. Where is Chief Justice now who can take suo moto notice of this issue???
December 20, 2012 7:32 pm
To allay fears of all the government should verify and validate and guarantee that there is nothing in the polio vaccine that can alter the neurological condition of the brains of our children our next generation. There are rumors and conspiracy theories that these medicines can alter the brain condition and the person would stop believing in religion or any thing. Does that mean it can destroy Islam and generation of muslims with a drop of vaccine? Our inept government should come up openly with the contents of these polio vaccines and their side effects if any.
December 20, 2012 7:36 pm
Well you would need to prove that the person who called was an actual Taliban because that called could have been just trying to blame the taliban. Who would benefit from blaming the taliban? The Pakistani government, so that they can get more money from the USA. I do not suggest that the government did it but they just blame the usual suspect for everything with out any investigation. There are never any investigations in Pakistan cause they just dont care.
December 20, 2012 7:44 pm
Preventing polio vaccination by these fanatics simply does not make sense. It's beyond any comprehension what monsters we are dealing with here. It defies all logic unless their goal is to incapacitate Pakistan through disease.
December 21, 2012 12:33 am
I wish all clerics were like them.
December 21, 2012 3:30 am
Clerics should also condemn all terrorist activities. Islam is a religion of peace. Prophet PBUH is the first person who announced rights for POW's (after the war of Badr). Sadly Taliban use the name of Islam for their political benefit. They are the biggest danger to Pakistan and Islam.
December 21, 2012 5:33 am
Tahir Ashrafi of the Pakistan Ulema Council is a man whose heart is in the right place. His courageous decision to protest the tragic slaying of innocent lady health workers, is a step in the right direction. He seems to understand the beneficial effects of education, health and technology. The stand of Maulana Asadullah Farooq is also very commendable. Inshallah, we will now see in the future the change in our thinking, for the betterment of Pakistan. Salams
December 22, 2012 1:46 am
Can you give one example for any Pakistani ulema, They are doing what they believe . Yes this thing true for Muslim ulema and Muslim living in western countries .
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