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Polio drive: Role for PTI, clerics

June 10, 2013

IT is a real pity if some of us have to be convinced into supporting something as basic as the administration of polio drops to children. As the harbinger of a new Pakistan and with a state-of-the-art cancer hospital to his credit, Imran Khan should require no briefing from the Word Health Organisation chief about the threat of polio in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Yet, such a WHO briefing was given on Thursday just as, in another manifestation of the challenge posed by heartless elements that are resistant to polio vaccination, a gathering of Pakistani and international religious scholars in Islamabad issued an edict declaring the polio drops halal. On the day the two news stories appeared, a polio worker died in Peshawar of wounds she had sustained on the country’s polio front, as a dire reminder of just how critical the situation is, particularly in KP.

At a distance from where briefings take place and edicts are deemed necessary, both Mr Khan and the clerics are well placed to act where it really matters. The PTI’s support at the grass roots all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should enable it to make a much-needed contribution to the anti-polio drive. This is a statement the PTI chief must make in the interest of the people and his own reputation as a politician who does not like to complicate things and prefers to come up with direct, unambiguous responses. As simple issues go, there is none as straightforward as this one. The failure of the polio vaccination drive puts lives at grave risk and all have a role to play, including PTI workers, the edict-making clerics in Islamabad, and the ulema with considerable influence in KP and the rest of the country. These religious scholars must step up to the duty of taking their support of the anti-polio drive right down to the local level. The local mosque, connected to the people and as an institution seeking public good, should take anti-polio campaigners under its umbrella.