ISLAMABAD, Aug 18: In an attempt to limit the damage and rebut the Taliban fatwa against polio vaccination, the government has reportedly sought help from Ulema based in Saudi Arabia.
The decree issued by the Taliban in Waziristan agencies in June this year hampered the government’s efforts for a smooth National Immunisation drive between July 16 and July 18. At least 200,000 children are reported to have been left unvaccinated.
According to a senior official of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, there has been diplomatic correspondence between the two governments, and the matter has been taken up with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Aziz bin Ibrahim al Ghadeer.
“Right now these religious fanatics are using religion as a reason to discourage parents from letting their children get vaccinated. The Pakistani government is trying to invite the Imam of Kaa’ba to visit Pakistan and administer polio drops,” he revealed.
He added: “Currently the Saudi ambassador is on holidays because of Eid but once he is back we will be actively pursuing the task assigned by the office of the president.”
The official said that the government expects the polio vaccination drive to receive a positive boost if the Imam agrees to support it.
“Millions of Pakistanis across the country, including Waziristan and other parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, give special respect to the Imam because of his position in Makkah,” said the official.
He said that the government already has over 27 religious decrees from across the Muslim world from religious scholars of various sects relating to polio vaccination, all declaring the vaccine to be “halal”.
The official also shared a copy of these decrees with Dawn, as well as a copy of document of support and assurance from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
“The militant’s ban also had a negative effect in Islamabad where 6,000 children in rural areas, particularly the Afghan settlements, missed out on polio vaccination,” he added.
Meanwhile, an official of the Presidency informed Dawn that President Asif Ali Zardari will chair a meeting on August 25 at Bilawal House Karachi, after WHO raised concerns over the presence of polio virus in Karachi’s Gaddap Town’s water samples.
“The president will be chairing the meeting to review the polio situation in Sindh province specifically the areas of Karachi which were also inaccessible because of fragile law and order situation,” said the official on the condition of anonymity.