Thoughts by Bahadar Ali

April 25, 2016

Polio Vaccination: Panacea for the World, Curse in Pakistan!

Filed under: Political — bkhan @ 12:40 pm

There was another blow to the Polio vaccination campaign when six policemen were killed in the line of duty while guarding the health workers administering polio vaccine to the toddlers in Karachi. Appointing policemen to secure health workers, itself speaks volumes about the sorry state of affairs where Pakistani state stands today. A country that already can be spotted at the tail of all human welfare indexes, this is another unfortunate stigma that makes us feel further miserable among the rest of the world.

Our frenzied preoccupation with political upheavals of making or breaking of the governments and guessing the political futures of individuals and parties has blind sided us from the very basics of any human society make-ups. We are one of the isolated few where polio virus is still thriving, potentially exposing our future generations to be physically handicapped. And while the rest of the world has overcome this lethal illness long time ago, some elements of our society have hijacked the idea of very treatment of it. Instead to quarantine the virus, they choose to quarantine its cure, the polio vaccination. Their lopsided logic ( read craziness) termed this vaccine as another Western conspiracy against our next generation.Their twisted logic blames this vaccine for a reduced potential of human procreation in the children exposed to it. Totally disregarding the fact that we are already an over populous nation of 200 million and growing at geometric rate. Given few more decades and we are just short of becoming third largest population of the world. Both vaccinated and non-vaccinated are already contributing to it vigorously, so there should be no fear that it can make anyone impotent.

A lot can be blamed on the illiteracy in this regard and our governments chronicle apathy towards educating the general public about this and other vital issues. Simply appealing public through media announcements for co-operation with vaccinating campaigns or making some religious figure as the iconic-vanguard wouldn’t help. The religious fraternity is mostly culpable for spreading confusion in public as they are the first one, as always, where they found wrong with these polio drives too. They speak one thing in a public and other to their followers. The misguided bigots who are killing the poor foot-soldiers of these campaigns are inspired by the religious decrees from some of the clerics within our country. They forget, or at least nobody told them the fact that the very health workers are trying to save their kids from getting crippled. This should be the mission of everyone to educate the general public and wash away any misconception that prevail about the vaccination.
In a nutshell, a polio vaccine is nothing but a liquidized doze of dead polio virus. When the kids are administered this doze their natural immune system kicks into action and produces antibodies around the deactivated virus. This simple process achieves the objective and an immunity shield gets produced by the body. In future when these kids even if get exposed to actual polio virus strains, they remain safe because their body already had build immunity around this. Thus it saves a human being from getting permanently disabled in their life time. It is simply a proactive medical process. This simple message can be disseminated to the general public to dispel any mystery that shrouds this type of treatment. However, often it is observed that instead of addressing this root cause a statistical information barrage from various health organizations is released which essentially serves no purpose.
The situation stays alarming, when the rest of the world is zero polio zone long time now, according to WHO, the latest kid who has been paralyzed by Polio virus in Pakistan was on March 22, 2016. Thus another human life has been condemned to the misery only because of not enough persuasion to the general public and huge dissuasion against the Polio vaccination campaign. The level of compounding of ignorance and illiteracy touched its worst whereby in Muzaffar Garh in 2012 when a local cleric incited Jihad again the polio workers and that too through the loud speakers of the grand mosque of the town. This resulting in suspension of the campaign in the area. This case pertains to the ‘fully-governed’ Pakistan, rest we could imagine the situation in FATA and other semi-governed areas.
Instead of bulldozing polio campaign through media, the same energy and resources can be used in persuasion techniques by applying rational discourse. People need to be engaged by providing examples of worlds largest populations like India and China, where there is universal immunization but it didn’t impact their potential to grow populations or other Islamic countries especially Saudi Arabia etc. It seems an over emphasis but imagine the impact on Pakistan if it doesn’t stay polio free in the near future. We may be unable to quarantine the polio virus but rest of the world would quarantine us for sure.

Another sad aspect is the plight of poor polio workers who do their extremely hazardous job under tough weather conditions for a paltry payment. There have been more polio workers killed than the kids paralyzed with polio virus. A state cannot be expressed in more agonized way where even the basic health shield providers need their own security and divisions of police guard them and in the process get itself killed. It is high time for the state to revisit its priorities’ check-list. Bigotry is a hard phenomena to root out soon but any bigotry that is interfering with the delivery of basic health care should not be tolerated at all.

April 13, 2016

Panama Papers – Not A Big Deal?

Filed under: Political — bkhan @ 6:33 am
Before the reality escapes us here again, let us be very clear about one thing-all this noise is destined to subside and our curiosity would soon cave in to some other ‘more’ interesting scandal. Unfortunately, this is how the chronology of such events in Pakistan dictates us to treat this brand new Panama Leaks scandal as well. The bitter and ultimate reality of such episodes is pushing the government’s authority further into oblivion, resulting into even more weak government and its control on affairs. Aping the Western governments and individuals, to resign on a moral guilt that gets associated with such scandals is an alien concept in our political discourse.

Inability to resign and allow transparency in this matter lies deep down somewhere in our roots about certain insecurities that we grow up with. It is the same set of insecurities whereby we fail to observe a waiting queue at a bus stop fearing that if we miss the bus there may be no second bus coming. Our political class is the most paranoid and some of this paranoia is not ill-found given the history of toppling of civilian-political governments that most of the time is followed by a selective set of accountability against the individual who gets routed out of power. Although, as it is said, the glory of even a single day should suffice the craving of an ambitious individual and given Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family’s presence in the power for roughly three decades, it is an opportunity for them to be on the higher moral pedestal by stepping down and try to come clean out of it. Highly unlikely though, on both counts!

In the Capitalistic world the concept of commissions and kickbacks is the legalized form to cover up the inherit means of corruption that are built into this system. In the established democracies of Western Europe and North America observing the role of corporations and rich individuals’ contributions to the political parties is an accepted mean of securing the potential business favors that are rewarded down the road by the elected governments points to the same trend. But the scope and magnitude of stashing money in off-shore corporations, as revealed through the Panama-Leaks, simply cannot be shrugged off as a norm-of-the-game.It is a well-thought out means of deception and tax evasion by the political and business elite of the world. The primary onus of this mega scandal falls on the shoulders of politicians in power, who expect their public to pay its full taxes. Even if this process may not be illegal it certainly lays a moral turpitude on the political class who are supposed to lead from front. With this precedent in-place, the only example that they have set, is to discover the means to evade taxes. And as majority is not as deep-pocketed, they are deprived to utilize these tax-havens, which results in frustration and lack of respect for the system.

The Pakistani political scene in this regard, is even more interesting in the sense that opposition parties are demanding in chorus for an inquiry into the matter and settling in nothing less than stepping down of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Their moral-fiber is dished out in the form of a noble cause to get back the ‘looted’ money of the Pakistani nation. However, if read between the lines, it is simply a new dimension to the existing power struggle primarily between PTI and Nawaz League. Because apparently it lacks the sincerity of the cause given their obsession with only putting government into the spotlight and conveniently looking on the other side when the names of other Pakistani individuals who made up to this ‘role-of-honor’ are concerned. Obviously it is their prerogative to apply different yard-sticks when dealing with this scenario because as a head of state, Nawaz Sharif cannot escape to bear the major burden of this blame.
The way Nawaz Sharif quickly reacted to this development by addressing the nation, is an open gesture that the ruling family would fight this to the tooth and nail. By establishing a judicial commission and that too by a retired judge, shows the attitude that they don’t weigh this issue too much.

Another dimension to this issue is the public reaction to this affair. For most of the public it is just another of the scandals that they keep on hearing and witnessing during the civilian power set ups. The public seems unmoved by this new development given the cynicism that has been attached with frequent tales of corruption and scandals told to them in the past. For them it is just another tale that would fade away like many others of the past, although this one is unlike any of the others. It is an international scandal that shows the dishonesty and insecurities of the super rich around the world. In Pakistan, all the opposition can achieve through it to create further perception issue for the Nawaz family, which frankly is not a big deal there.

So far the most interesting interpretation, from a section of public is to term this as wrath of God against Nawaz Sharif for his apparent actions and promises of making Pakistan a liberal country and a punishment for his ‘un-Islamic’ deeds. Well this is a prevalent mode of thinking where even earthquakes are also attributed to the increasing magnitude of our sins. But for Nawaz Sharif, sin or not, this scandal would leave some permanent scars on his political careers, although not sufficient enough to unseat him.

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