Unicef Pakistan has introduced a booklet containing fatwas (religious decrees) of prominent religious scholars from Pakistan and the rest of the world encouraging the administration of polio drops to children after its communication network staff was barred from conducting house-to-house drive.
The fatwa or religious decree issued by the Imam of Aqsa mosque (the second most revered place for Muslims in Jerusalem) Dr Muhammad Shaikh Al-Siam states that giving polio drops is not prohibited in Islamic Shariat.
The Imam of Al-Aqsa mosque states that polio is a dreaded disease and Islamic Shariat allows treatment and prevention through medicine.
The Emergency Operation and Security Guidelines for 2013 regarding polio vaccination were prepared during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad last week following the killings of 14 polio workers and volunteers from July 2012 to January 2013 in the country.
Under the guidelines, Polio Eradication Initiative Pakistan officials have been directed to reduce the visibility of social mobilisation and vaccination teams on the field and have also been recommended to not publicise dates of vaccination campaigns in the country.
Similarly, the Unicef’s Communication Network/COMNnet staff members have been advised to avoid going house to house for social mobilisation and instead approach influential people.
The Unicef Pakistan has come up with a booklet containing 24 fatwas of religious leaders, including the Imam of Al-Aqsa mosque, scholars from Egypt, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Darul Uloom Deoband, UP India and Ulema from Pakistan.
Another fatwa included in the booklet published by the Unicef Pakistan is by the administrator of Darul Uloom Deoband, UP, India, in which he states that some people in the society, due to their ignorance, were preventing children from getting polio doses, which was highly unfortunate.
The Darul Uloom Deoband India administrator appealed to the public to get their children vaccinated against polio by giving them ‘free’ polio drops so that this menace could be eradicated for once and all.
The booklet also contains fatwas from Ulema representing Islamic Ideology Council, and various Ulema associated with prominent seminaries in Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A joint fatwa from several senior Ulema from South Waziristan has also been included in the booklet asking their followers to get their children vaccinated against polio as there was nothing wrong with the polio vaccine drops as per Islamic injunctions.
The fatwas included in the Unicef’s booklet are given from the Ulema of various sects, including those belonging to Sunni Deobandi and Barelvi sects, Ulema of Ahle-Hadith school of thought and those belonging to Fiq-e-Jafferia.
Officials in the Unicef Pakistan said there was a need for convincing people that Islam did not prohibit polio vaccination.
“This book would be provided to polio vaccinators during campaigns so that people who refuse drops for their children on religious grounds could be educated,” a Unicef official said.
On the other hand, officials in Polio Eradication Initiative Pakistan said Unicef’s role in Pakistan was getting limited to advocacy following attacks on its staff as its main role of social mobilisation was being reduced under new emergency guidelines.
“Unicef’s roles are social mobilisation and procurement of vaccine in Pakistan. Recently, they have signed a 226 million yen agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency for procurement of oral polio vaccine for Pakistan,” an official informed.