Â “Polio is a CIA created disease to wage war on Islam.”
Yawn. Â You couldn’t make it up. Â This is Khalid Sheik Yasin Â lunacy. “The evil use of humanitarian work” corrupts and deprives innocent Muslims of “their rights” to rule over the kafir. Â Â Shooting a gift horse US for providing vaccines free (the exceptional compassion of USA even to those who heap abuse and proclaim Jihad) is also part of Â the Islamic belief-system, stooped in superstition, conspiracy theories and megalomanic grandezza.
A number of families across Pakistan refused vaccinations from July, when news of the reportedly fake campaign broke, to September, said Dennis King, chief of polio vaccinations in Pakistan for Unicef. “Following the early reports, some families in the provinces did refuse to have their children vaccinated citing the fake campaign as the cause,” Mr. King said.
MOHABATABAD, Pakistanâ€”The United Nations says a reportedly fake vaccination campaign conducted to help hunt down Osama bin Laden has caused a backlash against international health workers in some parts of Pakistan and has impeded efforts to wipe out polio in the country.
The refusals, he added, have declined since September due to vigorous campaigning by international and local health workers to ensure families they are working only to vaccinate against polio, a disease eradicated in most of the world but still prevalent in Pakistan.
Pakistan military intelligence in July detained a local doctor, Shakeel Afridi, on charges of involvement with the reportedly fake vaccination campaign, supposedly involving vaccine against hepatitis B. Pakistan officials believe the campaign was an attempt to get DNA samples from bin Laden’s family to confirm his location in a house in Abbottabad.
In May, U.S. Navy SEALs raided the house, killing bin Laden. A Pakistani judicial committee has recommended Dr. Afridi be charged with treason, which carries the death penalty. He hasn’t been made available to comment since his arrest.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which Pakistani officials say carried out the purportedly fake program, hasn’t publicly commented. Officials familiar with the bin Laden operation say the CIA did indeed institute a mock vaccine program with a local doctor who had previously been an informant in the tribal areas. The plan was to obtain DNA from residents of the Abbottabad compound as they got a vaccine injection, helping confirm bin Laden’s presence there.
An official at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said it was standard U.S. policy not to comment on intelligence matters. The official said the U.S. will continue to support vaccination programs in Pakistan.
The issue has given fresh ammunition to Islamist preachers who for years have claimed foreign health workers are spies and urged people to shun vaccination campaigns.
Some 1,700 families living in Mohabatabad, a poor area of 20,000 people on the outskirts of Mardan, a town in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, have refused vaccinations after local Islamic seminaries launched a countercampaign to discourage vaccinations, health workers say. They say the main obstacle in the neighborhood is an influential cleric, Maulana Siddique Ahmed.The preacher runs the Marifu Shria-o-Khanqah seminary, one of 10 hard-line religious schools in the area, and uses sermons to scare locals from getting their children vaccinated.
Mr. Ahmed said during a recent sermon to poor ethnic Pashtun villagers that the U.S. isn’t to be trusted because of its campaign to eliminate Taliban fighters through unmanned drone attacks.
“Enemies of Islam, especially America, are using polio drops to make future generations of Muslims sterile,” he said. “Why else are they emphasizing on saving us from polio when they are killing us through drone attacks? It cannot be on humanitarian grounds only. Why would you drink water from a well belonging to anti-Islamic forces, which is already poisonous?”
These kinds of vehement views existed before allegations of the fake campaign came to light. Health workers had been trying to counter preachers such as Mr. Ahmed through education campaigns and had registered some success. Vaccination refusals in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which is administered from the city of Peshawar, had dropped to 16,000 in July, before the news broke, from 30,000 in November 2010, Mr. King said.
The U.N. says numbers spiked after the raid, although officials didn’t provide exact figures. The U.N. and local health workers responded by enlisting local clerics to support the vaccinations, which has helped bring the numbers down again, according to health workers in the area.
That tactic hasn’t been without difficulties. Usman Khan, an official at the National Research Development Foundation, a Pakistani nongovernment organization, says he tried to draw up a list of prominent clerics in Mardan to get them to issue a decree that vaccinations are allowed under Islam. Instead, the clerics accused him of spying for the U.S.
“The fake vaccination campaign used to locate Osama bin Laden has given fodder to already antagonistic clerics in conservative areas to dub us as U.S agents and raise doubts among people about the use of vaccine. It has been a tough battle against illiteracy, misconceptions, and poverty,” he said.
Bushra Bibi, a young, veiled female health worker, says many families in the area have refused vaccines because of Mr. Ahmed’s influence. “But we continue our awareness campaign among women,” she says. “At times we show them pictures of kids crippled by polio.”
She told of an instance when several women secretly got their children immunized. “They said to quickly give children the drops while their husbands and brothers were out but pleaded us not to mark either their houses or their children so the males don’t get to know.”
In some cases, Taliban militant commanders have kept health workers away from villages, angering some locals.
Ghulam Rasool, a laborer from Khyber, found out in March that his 18-month-old son had polio after militants had warned off health workers.
“I know my child’s future has been ruined, but I won’t let it happen to my other kids,” he says. “Now I have brought eight children of my extended family to Peshawar to get them vaccinated despite threats.”
Senior Pakistani health officials condemn Mr. Afridi’s role as unethical.
“Everybody in the medical profession resented his deceptive role. Defeating polio in Pakistan is challenging anyway, and this created negative associations,” says Janbaz Afridi, deputy director at Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial health department in Peshawar.
Pakistan is one of the last significant polio reservoirs in the world, imperiling global eradication efforts, Unicef warns.