Don’t play God with the lives of innocent children

Published: July 20, 2012

I deserve a chance at normalcy too, i deserve the polio vaccine. PHOTO: REUTERS

As the rest of the world rockets forward, we in Pakistan seem to be heading backwards. Neighbouring countries like India and Bangladesh having grappled with the issue of polio, are now on the path of enjoying a polio free ride. On the other hand, Pakistan is one of the three nations, along with Nigeria and Afghanistan, which still remains ridden with the polio endemic.

Unfortunately, even struggling for complete eradication may not be possible under the current circumstances prevailing in the country.

Recently, North Waziristan imposed a polio ban in the area as a protest against drone strikes. Apart from this, hundreds of tribal people boycotted polio vaccinations in protest against loadshedding in the Drazinda village. Local elders of Sherani tribe held a jirga in Drazinda Bazaar and subsequently decided to kick out polio teams from D I Khan. Condemning the campaign as a cover for espionage, militants banned vaccinations in North and South Waziristan, risking the health of 240,000 children. Officials said that a further 110,000 children in Khyber Agency also risked going without the vaccine, because of fighting between government troops and warlord Mangal Bagh.

No doubtt, concerned individuals have the right to officially register their protests against drone strikes, Dr Afridi’s betrayal or even against loadshedding, but the method sought is not justified. Turning your gun towards the future of innocent children who are in no way directly or indirectly responsible for any of the problems above mentioned is unwarranted, unjust and deplorable.

How would banning polio drops in the area to little kids make a difference to the situation of drone attacks?

Is it not akin to hitting your own foot with an axe?

How will this help to stop drone attacks, generate more electricity or prevent more Dr Afridis from being recruited?

How is risking one’s own child’s health a way of avenging the atrocities of the aggressors?

A friend tweeted recently saying:

“Taliban want to kick US outta Afghanistan/Pakistan but they never know kicking with polio affected legs is quite impossible ‪#PolioBan

Tribal elder Qadir Khan told a gathering of more than 120 elders and religious scholars in Miramshah that drone strike were not only a concern for the Taliban but also for the tribal people. He further stated that:

Polio vaccination will be banned until drone attacks are stopped.

Maamoor Khan, another tribal elder stated in an attempt to reason the ban:

Drones martyr so many children, while polio afflicts one or two out of hundreds of thousands.

However, my question is, does one or a few insincere health professionals justify ignorance of a disease that currently prevails in our society?

I wish that these people would understand that they are only hurting themselves by crippling their own children.

They, however, argue that drones kill more children than polio does.

As true as that may be, the murder of children through drones is criminal, but crippling them for life is torture.

Is this really the easiest way out? Kicking out the unarmed sincere medical personnel, and lashing out at unaware innocent children, both of whom will not be able to defend their fate?

As a medical professional, I can only scream and shout this much and no more; I can only yell out that they have no right to aggressively jeopardise the health of one innocent at the cost of another through hostility.

Which sect of Islam validates this method of avenging a wrong? Usurping the right to a quality life from a young child is not your right to begin with. Who gave you the authority to play God with their lives?

I am aghast that there are educated people on Twitter who are justifying the polio vaccination ban.

‪It isn’t petty politics for which politicians, civil society, liberals or conservatives, or the general public should not speak up; its the lives of 200,000 children, its their future and ours. If not for Pakistan, then for humanity, I beg you, speak up!

Read more by Ilmana here or follow her on Twitter @Zeemana


Dr Ilmana Fasih

An Indian gynaecologist, married to a Pakistani, Ilmana is a health activist, and m-Health entrepreneur, who writes on social and health issues as a passion. She dreams of a world without borders and wars.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • p r sharma

    i have reservation that there shall be a rally/protest in any manner in urban area( forget the rural terrain) against the polio vaccination ban in north/south waziristan. People speaks up on religious matters only other issues do not carry priority .wish to have hope for the best.Recommend


    Dear Author – Yeh padhe likhe jaahil, Pakistan ko ek bade unche pahad se neeche phaink denge ek din! The death knell was has been sounded. Letting kids suffer due some narrow minded people is the biggest blasphemy one can cause; children are God’s gift and they arent protecting them?? Very sad! Recommend

  • Critical

    I’m threatening that I’ll burn my house if my neighbors try to steal mangoes from my garden..Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    No doubt Dr Fassih means good, but she has failed to justify the need of a polio vaccination program for children in the Pashtun territories. Also the concerns of the people must be taken seriously. The use of extremists and war Lords as expressed by foreigners are not helpful. Pashtuns tribesmen are as much responcible and concerned for the safety and protection of their children as people of other parts of Pakistan, if not more. I would neither trust Pakistan military nor any foreign ngos or uno personnel involved in anti Polio program nor accept their judgement on identifying the territories of Pashtuns being identified as polio risk one. The Author should justify the need for the prevention of a possible Polio infection in Pashtun territories which are not immune today against USA and Pakistan military attacks.
    Just a sincere opinion who knows a bit about immunazation and those who try to play God. T

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Ameer Mirza

    Well said. I appreciate your concern over the issue. Its a pity that our illiterate leaders in Wazirastan are thus helping their enemy. They are killing there children through drone attacks and these people are trying to make their children crippled for life. It is fulfilment of US interests both ways.

    Ameer Mirza

  • popsaeed

    They should ban the vehicle they use because its also made of countries which allow drone in pakistan.

    They should ban the cloth they wear because its also made of countries which allow drone in pakistan.

    The weopon they used mostly imported it should also ban.

    Why children we sitting far away from waziristan feel so sad about there children because we are also father of children i request to deep from my heart please please dont do that please allow your children polio vaccination.

    By doing ban on polio vacination there is no difference between you and drone attacker they also dont care children and you tooRecommend

  • Well Wisher

    This is a country where people are a symbol of Jahalat. Recommend

  • Huma

    @Rex Minor… “No doubt Dr Fassih means good, but she has failed to justify the need of a polio vaccination program for children in the Pashtun territories”… Is it not enough that these children will have withered limbs for ALL of their lives? That they will be characterized as “mazoor”, living in a harsh terrain, where physical strength is a necessity? Are u by any chance crazy? Were you given polio drops? Are u “mazoor”? If not, u should be ashamed of yourself! A blood test is what led to the Osama identification, hold your kids yourself, and let the drops drip into the mouth.DO NOT let anyone touch them if you are so paranoid! For Gods Sake! Wake up!!
    Are any more reasons required??Recommend

  • Parvez

    As the saying goes we cut our own nose in order to spite our face – but then we are a stupid lot.
    I bet that all those so called leaders advocating this ban have all had their family children vaccinated against polio.
    This is a good opportunity for Imran Khan to stand up and loudly declare that this is wrong.
    Credit to Shahid Afridi for publically coming on TV and promoting immunisation against polio.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Rex Minor
    I fully agree to you. People are generally prone to propaganda through strong westerns as well as local media. Lies prevail, truth is unheeded. Polio vaccination is a trap which shall be revealed when there would be no remedy. It is similar to the case of AIDS in Africa.Recommend

  • fizzasaleh

    Basic necessities are the fundamental rights of every human irrespective of the cast, region, or nationality. very few people are there who are making an effort to change the situation but majority. we need to educate our people and then we can say we have reached our goal.Recommend

  • Hafeez

    Very well written. However, the blog addresses the tribal elders, which I think is a mistake by the author since triabl elders are not the reason for ban on polio. Do you expect tribals to go against any verdict given by taliban? No! Even if they want polio vaccination, taliban wouldn’t let it happen. Besides that, the blog or this article should be addressed to the government and the military that they should make sure that every kid in waziristan is vaccinated. It is their responsibility to eradicate or quash any resistance against the vaccination. As far Dr Afridi factor is concerned, he was collecting blood samples under the guise of a Hepatitis program but our stupid media linked it to polio vaccination, and today we see this mess over vaccination. Lets be clear that tribals, whether kids or elders, are the victims and not the perpetrators, as this blog seem to allude to.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    You are just being emotional, and this is no reason either to vaccinate children. If they tribal leaders in the Pashtun territory feel that they are being conned then they have the right to protect their children, Pashtuns are enlightened people and I trust their judgement. I would like to hear from the author about the medical reason as to why pashtun children should be vaccinated, whereas they are exposed to Drone attacks and this should be stopped first.

    Rex Minor

    I have a hunch why certain people want to enter into the Pashtun territory.Recommend

  • http://India vasan

    May be you should educate the talibans that they can only get crippled foot soldiers in the future if they dont allow polio immunisation. May be that will do the trick.Recommend

  • A.

    Has any one actually thought that maybe the people in Waziristan are persuaded by the taliban to not let their children get polio drops?

    The taliban are using them and their children as a human shield whether its the drones or the polio drops. Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Here is a solution; open up special clinics outside the tribal territories and offer polio vaccination program for all children, local as well as children from the tribal territories.
    This way the cat shall be belled and the security of the tribal land shall not be compromised.. The yanks cannot be trusted whose aim in fact is to find the co-ordintes of the areas to facilitae target bombing. Can the author or some member of the Govt. organise this?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • sars

    seriously lets get back at western countries by letting our kids get polio??
    i am sure the kid who is crippled all his life will agree with that logicRecommend

  • Reema

    The only disease affecting our country is the low state of civilization.Recommend

  • Magus

    These are cruel and brain damaged people. In a perverse way they are acting out a death wish by crippling their children and reducing the pool of ak47 wielding murderers. Or perhaps looking to increase the pool of suicide bombers. What is more scary is educated sounding people supporting this cruelty to kids. Recommend

  • Writer

    @Rex Minor
    I sincerely hope that you’re a troll.Recommend