A cleric in a northern Pakistani village has opposed a foreign-funded polio vaccination campaign of the Pakistan government, urging locals not to take any preventive measures against polio "as those killed during an outbreak are martyrs". "I must tell my brothers and sisters that finding a cure (vaccination) for an epidemic before its outbreak is not allowed in Sharia ," said Maulana Fazlullah during a Friday sermon in Mam Dherai village where he is building a madrassa with local funds.“According to Sharia, one should avoid going to the areas where an epidemic has broken out, but those who do go to such areas and get killed during an outbreak are martyrs,” he said. The provincial government has launched an anti-polio campaign to run between February 20 and 22 in selected parts of the province, but there have been reports of people refusing to get their children vaccinated.
Sermons like this are influencing people into refusing polio vaccination in many parts of the NWFP. Like Nigeria, Pakistan is another country where clergy is blocking efforts aimed at eliminating fatal diseases like polio. Cases of people misbehaving with polio vaccination staff have been reported from several areas. Recently, a surgeon, Dr Ghani Khan, was killed in a bomb blast in remote Bajaur Agency, causing postponement of the anti-polio campaign, official sources said.
Swat is one area where polio staff is facing resistance, said an official, adding that deeply religious people often resisted things involving foreigners.
Maulana Fazlullah suspects the intentions of foreign agencies involved in funding drives against fatal diseases: “I don’t understand why foreigners would think of our well-being when we see that they are killing Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.” He cited the example of a companion of the Prophet who, he said, was ‘martyred’ during an epidemic.
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