The refusal seems to stem from some radical clerics’ propaganda that the vaccine is an American plot to sterilise Pakistan’s coming generations. In addition to highlighting these clerics’ hold and influence in some of Pakistan’s far-flung areas, this development should also prompt a serious investigation into other realities influencing this malaise.
A clear pattern reveals itself upon close examination. It comes as little surprise that both the rise in recorded polio cases as well as the support for the clerics’ stance are concentrated in the frontier province. And there too, the higher percentage is in the bordering areas with Afghanistan, the troublesome area widely blamed for harbouring Taleban remnants and abetting terrorist activity.
As Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has repeatedly implied, the only credible cure for indoctrination instilled hatred and ignorance can come from targeting the root, basic causes of the problem. These are the very places where careful and deliberate indoctrination was carried out, backed by domestic and international agencies, to produce warrior-cleric prototypes which proved successful in generating the storm that flushed the Soviets out of Afghanistan.
The haste with which the US abandoned the region once its purpose was served left a discomforting vacuum inside Afghanistan which automatically became these experimental jihadists’ next target. And to ensure they survive and thrive, they set up institutions within themselves that guarantee self-perpetuation of their extremist dogma.
The West’s attention didn’t return to this area till the venom they gave root to eventually came to haunt them in their own home. And as their fearsome-to-all military might continues to fail in delivering the death blow, they are finding out a complex web of international proportions that has already been put in place by these apparently little-knowing self-styled clerics. Notably, they have evolved into a complex, uncompromising entity, with little scope or appreciation for modern enlightenment.
The polio-vaccination-refusal is just one aspect of their detrimental, regressive philosophy. To counter it, the authorities need to seriously put together knowledge-based educational programmes. They must also realise that their recent approach of subduing these extremist people has only added fuel to their debilitating scaremongering fire.
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