Both India and Pakistan became independent from the British rule in the Year 1947. And many decades later India has been certified a polio free country; whereas Pakistan is still amongst the few countries where fresh cases of polio keep coming up.
In the recent past, hundreds of polio health workers have been attacked and killed in Pakistan by the Islamist groups. The Islamic extremist groups suspect vaccination drive is a western conspiracy to sterilise Muslim population or make them impotent.
The distrust against the immunisation workers amongst the Pakistani extremists is understandable. The CIA had employed a Pakistani doctor and local health officers to collect DNA samples from the children suspected to be of the most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden who was hiding in Pakistan’s Abbottabad. The ploy adopted by the CIA to track Osama Bin has enraged the extremists.
But can attack on Osama Bin Laden be the only reason for the strong views of Islamic extremists against Polio workers? The answer perhaps lies in the different religion both India and Pakistan follow.
Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country and majority of them are Sunnis- a caste in Islam where even tattoos are considered forbidden. According to the books of Sunni tradition, “The prophet forbade mutilation or maiming of bodies. Several Sunni Muslim scholars believe tattooing is a sin because it involves changing the creation of God ( Surah 4 verse 117-120), in which it is seen as excessive attempts to beautify that which was already perfected. The human being is seen as having been ennobled by God, the human form viewed as created beautiful, such that the act of tattooing would be a form of mutilation. Ironically, ISIS—a Sunni militant group of the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant had ordered (issued fatwa) that all girls and women to undergo female genital mutilation!!!
On the failure of Polio drive Dr.Anita Zaidi, a Pakistani Paediatrician, explains to Fred De Sam Lazaro’s in a documentary aired on PBS titled ‘Religious and Ethnic- if you can put enough boots on the ground and do high-quality campaigns, because, if India can do it, Pakistan can also do it.’
Perhaps Dr.Anita Zaidi, like most of the Pakistanis, believes that history begins with the arrival of Islam or Suffism. There is hardly any mention of the pre-Islamic History and if, it is only a quick and passing reference to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Dwelling at great lengths will give them a ten thousand watt jolt. Dr.Anita further adds that for Pakistan, terrorism is a number One problem, and polio is just a by-product of this issue right now. This is what happens when vested interests out of guilt, insecurity and inferiority complex start re-writing history from a particular date in an attempt to erase their once great past. People like Dr.Anita Zaidi in Pakistan must understand that polio alone is not the only by-product of extremists but also the destruction of Buddha statues in Bamiyan in Afghanistan and the attack on Malala. This happens when present is inferior to past. And the acts carried out in the past to annihilate predominant civilisation were violent, intolerant and despicable as in the present times against minorities in the name of Blasphemy.
Dr.Anita Zaidi is not alone; there are others who are also optimist that polio also can be eradicated from Pakistan, which I welcome. But to make comparison with India’s success is sheer stupidity as the current generation of Pakistan has been forcefully disconnected with the pre-Islamic civilisation and culture. Hindus, since ancient India which once included Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Iran, believe any deformity in humans can be cured by Gods. In Ganesha’s Aarti, everyday, we Hindus recite…
अंधें को आँख देत, कोड़िन को काया ।
बांझन को पुत्र देत, निर्धन को माया ॥:
You bestow vision to the blind, and heal the leper.
You bestow children to the barren woman, and wealth to the destitute.
And In Hanuman Chalisa..Hindus recite
नाशौ रोग हरै सब पीरा ।
जपत निरन्तर हनुमत बीरा ॥
You Destroy Diseases and Remove all Pains,
When one Utters your Name Continuously,
Unlike Islam, Hindus always have in their psyche— persons born with deformities can be cured by praying to God, who is compassionate and merciful to his Devotee. God is not adamant and is flexible to accept his own creations’ prayers to rid his devotees of deformities.
And this is the difference in the success of polio eradication in India and its failure in Pakistan.