EVEN though the Pakistan Ulema Council did not specifically refer to the polio workers’ tragedy, its condemnation of the murder of innocent people deserves to be applauded. A fatwa, issued on Thursday by some of Pakistan’s leading Darul Ulooms grouped under the PUC, denounced all murders and declared categorically that a suspect could be given justice only by the state. The fatwa has a direct relevance to the situation in Pakistan today, because it also denounces murders in “streets or markets”. The PUC fatwa recognises the equality of all citizens when it declares that a non-Muslim killed by a Muslim citizen deserves the same legal process as when a Muslim falls victim to murder. Technically speaking, the PUC fatwa breaks no new ground when it reiterates the justice inherent in Islamic law; but its significance lies in its timing, for it comes at a time when some leading Islamic scholars and religious personalities have refrained from condemning acts of terror and the recent killings in Karachi and KP of anti-polio workers, most of them women. PUC Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi said the decree was issued to disabuse some people of the notion that the ulema approved of terrorism or were involved in it.
While the fatwa must be lauded, the silence which most heads of religious parties have maintained is astonishing. Even if some of them have condemned the polio workers’ murder as a matter of form, what is missing is a unanimous and categorical denunciation of the barbaric attacks on people engaged in the noble task of immunising the future generation of Pakistanis against polio. Isn’t it time for men like Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Maulana Samiul Haq, Munawwar Hassan, Hafiz Said and others to not only unequivocally condemn these murders by bigoted fanatics but also declare their full support for the polio campaign?