Polio leads to infertelity: a myth

Every few weeks, we come across articles in the newspaper that locals or the tribal elders not allowing polio vaccination in their area because people think it will render their kids infertile. Then there are efforts from government side to educate the people that it is just a myth but the myth isn’t getting destroyed. From Guardian

Now religious scholars have joined the campaign to dismantle the myths and battle the resurgence of polio. A campaign led by National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) in partnership with Unicef has brought together more than 5,000 of them, working on provincial and district levels, to tackle the issue. The group comprises of scholars belonging to the Deobandi sect, a school of thought followed by the majority of population in the tribal belt.

In Fata, clerics helped resolve 8,120 vaccine refusal cases during a week-long campaign in March this year. Another 160 religious scholars from Swat have issued a Fatwa in favour of the vaccinations. A campaign, starting this month, will be led by Shia scholars as it expands to the Parachinar valley, where the majority of the population are Shia Muslims.

Now if “polio drops leads to infertility” was a Taliban ploy, then we would not need to convince Shias as they are arch enemies of Taliban and would not have bought Taliban ploy hook, line and sinker. It doesn’t help the case that CIA used fake polio campaign to hunt for Osama Bin Laden leading to some polio administering NGOs to fly their staff outside Pakistan immediately as they would’ve been threatened.

But resistance to polio has been in the region even before Taliban took over. Where did the myth that it leads to infertility arrive. I came across this passage in the book Poor Economics talking about similar resistance to polio drops in India which gives some background:

India had had a long history with family planning, starting in the mid-1960s. In 1971, the state of Kerala experimented with mobile sterilization services, the “sterilization camps” approach that was to be the cornerstone of Sanjay Gandhi’s plan during the Emergency. Although most politicians before him had identified population control as an important issue, Sanjay Gandhi brought to the problem both an unprecedented level of enthusiasm and the ability (and willingness) to twist as many arms as necessary to implement his chosen policies.

In April 1976, the Indian Cabinet approved a formal statement of national population policy that called for a number of measures to encourage family planning, notably, large financial incentives for those who agreed to be sterilized (such as a month’s wages or priority on a housing list), and more frighteningly, authorization for each state to develop compulsory sterilization laws (for, say, everyone with more than two children). Although only one state proposed such a law (and that law was never approved), states were explicitly pressured to set sterilization quotas and fulfill them, and all but three states “voluntarily” chose targets greater than what was proposed by the central government: The targets totaled 8.6 million sterilizations “for 1976–1977.

Once laid out, the quotas were not taken lightly. The chief of the Uttar Pradesh bureaucracy wrote by telegraph to his principal field subordinates: “Inform everybody that failure to achieve monthly targets will not only result in the stoppage of salaries but also suspension and severest penalties. Galvanise entire administrative machinery forthwith repeat forthwith and continue to report daily progress by crash wireless to me and secretary to Chief Minister.” Every government employee, down to the village level, and not excluding railway inspectors and school teachers, was supposed to know the local target. Parents of schoolchildren were visited by teachers, who told them that in the future, their children may be denied enrollment in school if they did not agree to get sterilized. People traveling by train without a ticket—a widely accepted practice among the poor until then—were handed heavy fines unless they chose sterilization. Not surprisingly, the pressure occasionally went much further. In Uttawar, a Muslim village near the capital city of Delhi, all male villagers were rounded up one night by the police, sent to the police stations on bogus charges, and sent from there to be sterilized.

The policy appears to have achieved its immediate target, although the incentives probably also led to some overreporting in the number of actual sterilizations. In 1976–1977, 8.25 million people were reportedly sterilized, 6.5 million of them during just the period July–December 1976. By the end of 1976, 21 percent of Indian couples were sterilized. But the violations of civil liberties that were an integral part of the implementation of the program were widely resented, and when in 1977, India finally held elections, discussions of the sterilization policy were a key part of the debate, as captured most memorably by the slogan “Indira hatao, indiri bachao (Get rid of Indira and save your penis).” It is widely believed that Indira Gandhi’s defeat in the 1977 elections was in part driven by popular hatred for this program. The new government immediately reversed the policy.

In one of those ironic twists in which historians delight, it is not inconceivable that in the longer term, Sanjay Gandhi actually contributed to the faster growth of India’s population. Tainted by the emergency, family-planning policies in India retreated into the shadows and in the shadows they have remained—some states, such as Rajasthan, do continue to promote sterilization on a voluntary basis, but no one except the health bureaucracy seems to have any interest in it. In the meantime, however, generalized suspicion of the motivations of the state seems to be one of the most durable residues of the Emergency; for example, one still routinely hears of people in slums and villages refusing pulse polio drops because they believe it is a way to secretly sterilize children.

 

The complicity of security agencies in terrorism in Pakistan

This subject is very close to my heart. After Osama Bin Laden’s hideout was successfully raided in Abbotabad, questions were raised whether Pakistan (meaning Pakistan Army and its agencies) is “complicit or incompetent” that it was not able to find Osama Bin Laden who was hiding right under their nose.

Deutsch: Soldat der Special Forces beim Abseil...

The media was swayed towards incompetence, however, I personally believe Pakistan Army has been complicit, if not at top brass level than at least under the various wings and departments it espouses of its intelligence agencies. This will continue to hold as long as Pakistan (read Pakistan Army) maintains the fiction of Good Taliban, Bad Taliban.

Below are few excerpts from news articles. I don’t know about others but they confirm to me that security apparatus of Pakistan is hand in gloves with these terrorists.

Usman Kurd, the man who caused fall of Raisani govt

The sectarian attacks in Quetta had virtually been stopped following the arrest of Kurd and Badini. But quite unfortunately, both the LeJ men managed to escape under mysterious circumstances on January 18, 2008 after breaking the jail located in the high-security zone of Quetta Cantonment where no one can go without a pass.

The sectarian attacks in Quetta had virtually been stopped following the arrest of Kurd and Badini

This is not some small civilian jail. This is a high security prison in the garrison town of Quetta located in its high security military cantonment area. I believe no one was tried or court martialed for this escape.

From the same news item

Kurd and Badini were not the only LeJ leaders to have escaped from custody. Two other undertrial LeJ hit men, including a key suspect in a 2005 high-profile murder of Agha Ziauddin Rizvi, hoodwinked jail officials and made good their escape on December 13, 2012, even though they were kept in separate barracks of Cheeta sub-jail in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Intriguingly, Shakirullah Jan and Arifuddin had escaped after intoxicating the security personnel on duty despite the fact that 50 staffers of the Frontier Corps (FC) and police were guarding the prison.

Hazara continue to die in Quetta. Those who can manage it, try to run out of Pakistan as refugees or asylum seekers which itself is a precarious route. According to one such Hazara trying to make his way to Australia “I’d rather die in the boat than in a bomb blast,”

Yet the state continues to leave Hazara to fend for themselves.

Quetta has witnessed a recent surge in incidents of violence, with sectarian militants repeatedly targeting the Hazara Shia community in several bombings and gun-attacks.

On Monday, two youths belonging to the minority community were gunned down in an apparent targeted killing on Shahrah-i-Iqbal.

On July 15, four men belonging to the community were killed when gunmen sprayed bullets on their vehicle on Masjid road area.

On June 30, a deadly suicide bombing at an Imambargah killed 30 members of the minority community. The banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi had claimed responsibility for the blast, one of a series of bombings this year by the extremist sectarian outfit targeting the Hazaras.

The city also saw the country’s two bloodiest attacks so far this year.

A giant bomb planted in a water tanker being towed by a tractor killed 90 Shia Hazaras in February, while another suicide bombing at a snooker club in January killed 92 others.

The above stats are excerpted from the following news item:

Hazara Town residents shoot down suspected suicide bomber

QUETTA: An alleged suicide bomber was killed by residents of Hazara Town in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan on Saturday.

Capital City Police Officer Quetta, Mir Zubair Mehmood told Dawn.com that a suspected suicide bomber traveling on foot was killed by residents of Hazara Town shortly before Iftar.

He said residents tried to stop the suspected bomber from approaching a mosque they were guarding but he refused to do so. “Residents then fired and killed him on the spot,” he said.

Mehmood said a suicide jacket and a hand grenade were recovered from his possession. “A major terrorist attack was averted,” he claimed.

Another police official, DIG Operations Fayyaz Sumbal, said the bomber, who had strapped explosives around his body, could not explode himself because of timely action by the volunteers.

A large number police and paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) personnel reached the spot and started investigation into the incident.

Despite the fact that Hazara have been killed in large numbers this year, no intel is being gathered on attacks on them neither any security has been provided to them. As you can read, there was no military or police check post. It was volunteers themselves manning these places.

Makes you wonder what the large number of police and FC that reached the spot after the incident normally do if not provide security to residents.

Recently, there was attack on ISI headquarter in Sukkur. Regardless of the question that what is ISI office doing in Sukkur when its mandate is to guard against external threats, below is an analysis of how their internal conflicting objectives are leading to this situation:

Caught in no-man’s land

Many defenders of the ISI have attacked its critics and say that the agency is solely responsible for protecting the country from those that seek to harm it be they ‘foreign powers’ or Al Qaeda or most notably the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

They credit the agency with almost all terrorist ‘kills or captures’ and point out the example of one Karachi police unit that has had major ‘successes’ against the TTP but in effect only owns up to ISI arrests of militants and does the legal/court work so the agency remains behind the scenes.

The idea here isn’t to comment on, condemn or condone the agency’s political role but to assess if the country’s premier security agency, which has also lost physical assets and personnel, in the war against terrorism is now geared up for the challenge.

When you ask knowledgeable professionals their response is mixed. This simply reflects the confusion at the policymaking level. Sources familiar with the workings of the agency suggest that its counterterrorism wing is clued in and knowledgeable.

However, the pulls and pushes of the agency department entrusted with ‘running’ the Afghan operation often tend to work at cross-purposes with the wing. The sad bit is that the elected political leadership has so far either been incapable of taking charge or hasn’t been allowed to.

And the military leadership finds itself in a sort of ‘no-man’s land’ between the defence doctrines of Ziaul Haq’s (suicidal) international jihad and Musharraf’s (hypocritical and equally ineffective) enlightened moderation calling for duplicitous support to the West.

“Till these contradictions are resolved. Rest assured all of us are condemned to live with uncertainty, murder and mayhem casting an ominous shadow over our future,” says one former military officer.

Now we come to Karachi which has largest intelligence apparatus both in numbers of agencies as well as numbers of officers assigned. Yet killings and lawlessness in Karachi continues unabated.

June was Karachi’s deadliest month with 313 killings: HRCP

There was no respite from killings in the city during the first six months of the year 2013, as 1,728 casualties were reported in different incidents, according to a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report released on Monday.

Based on data from the past six months, the HRCP report declares June as the deadliest month of the year so far with 313 people killed. The highest number of political killings, which is 50, also took place in this month.

There has been an alarming increase in the crime rate as compared to the six-monthly figures of 2012, when over 1,200 people died. In 2011, the count was even lesser with 1,110 such tragedies.

Makes you wonder what is the whole security apparatus in Karachi doing. Below is based on a chat with my friend. You may or may not like to believe it but I know him to be pretty reliable and honest.

Just had the privilege of meeting ISI, MI, Chaudary Aslam, Brigade 303 and 306 officials in the recent past and was shocked at how easily these guys state kay itnay maray gay (how many people were killed), itnay maar diya jaaye gay (this many will be killed). No value of human lives in their views at the moment. These and other agencies using People’s Amn Committee (PAC), Awami National Party (ANP) and MQM goons (through black mailing). You have no idea kay yeh salay kitno ko paal rahay hay (that bastards have how many goons on their command) just to get the goals achieved of the higher ups and foreign elements as well.

Its mostly about real estate but there are other objectives as well. They use scare tactics, which includes murders, which was the only way to get people leave the old city area. it is working for them at our expense. Ashura planted blast plus burning down the buildings (here and here) in aftermath wasn’t enough to drive the traders away. They rebuilt the buildings.

Shershah traders were not emptying their places and not moving to Northern Bypass (Traders demand justice for Shershah victims) so were people from Juna Market, Kaghazi bazaar and Ranchore line. Already Textile Plaza, Kharadar market traders have left and settled in DHA Phase 2 commercial area, and Sharae Faisal. Properties prices in these areas have crashed and now being bought at throwaway prices by PAC who will eventually sell to builders or government of bypasses or road. If only the traders had agreed to move to Northern Bypass during Mustafa Kamal’s time (which is easier said than done), we wouldnt have seen whats going on nowadays. Lyari Expressway remains incomplete in MQM areas of Lyari ie where Kutchi Memons live and are being killed nowadays.

A friend of mine, his younger brother in a dare from his friends, was involved in some crime. He was picked from home at 3 am by Chaudry Aslam’s guys, beaten all night hung upside down. His brother and I didn’t know he was involved. We got him released using our influence through CID but when we went to release him, he had confessed in front of Chaudry Aslam of all his crimes. One of Chaudry Aslam’s man said that he will now be always used by agencies and he would comply to avoid arrest and being beaten up by the cops so the best is to move him away from Karachi. My friend could afford so he did but many can’t and are being used by the agencies when needed to create chaos etc its business in Pakistan.

Obviously the security officials were drunk and might have exaggerated but I believe there is an element of truth in it. A rich resource on dynamics of Karachi’s Urban violence can be found at the bottom of page here.

When US raided Abbotabad, one can say that they used stealth helicopters and we didn’t have our radars pointed towards western front as we never expected an attack from that side

Pakistan’s Air Force Learned About the Bin Laden Raid on TV

The Pakistani air force learned about the U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden from a television news report about a helicopter crash in Abbottabad. Belatedly, they scrambled fighter jets. But by then, the Americans were long gone.
In other words: Pakistan had virtually no chance of detecting U.S. choppers as they flew into the Pakistani equivalent of West Point. And if they raid was done all over again, they still wouldn’t catch the aircraft. That’s according to a leaked report from Pakistan’s independent Abbottabad Commission that was charged by the Pakistani government to investigate the raid. The commission says the Pakistani military never saw the raid coming because of the American choppers’ stealthy, noise-reducing equipment, the skill of their crews at flying below radar, and the fact that Pakistan’s air defenses are focused on its border with India, not Afghanistan

Anyway, military kept releasing such information to press that our airspace was being monitored implying if we had sent fighter jets, they would have been brought down by US’s much advanced air force.

US AWACS planes monitored PAF jets

Throughout the operation, US AWACS aircrafts remained airborne over Afghan airspace to ward-off of any reaction and monitor Pakistan Air Force jets.

Fine. Lets buy it. It was a failure of our military intelligence as well as superior capability of US that held us back from taking any action. What about last nights attack by Taliban

TTP claims attack on central jail in D I Khan

Pakistani Taliban militants in police uniform attacked the Central Jail in Dera Ismail Khan late on Monday and managed to free around 247 inmates, as more than 25 explosions were heard and at least 11 people were killed and nine others wounded.

Our response was exemplary

230 prisoners escape in TTP’s DI Khan jail attack

K-P prisons chief Khalid Abbas said the gunfight raged for three hours, with militants wearing police uniforms entering the facility after bombing its outer wall and throwing hand grenades at prison guards. After the battle abated, security forces searched the prison which was plunged into darkness with an electricity outage, and counted inmates by flashlight to determine how many had escaped, he said. Spokesperson for the K-P government Shaukat Yousafzai confirmed the army had been called in to quell the militant attack.

So they fought for three hours and then around 300 (100 attackers and 200 prisoners) of them escaped. They would not be escaping on foot or hiding in trees. They would be making their escape in cars. This time there was no AWACS in air. Why couldn’t we scrambled army gun ship helicopters or even fighter jets over the area.

They would have made a run for it in cars and assuming 20 militants per car, it makes for a convoy of 15 cars at least which is easy to spot in the night and we could have dropped a few small bombs or fired from helicopter guns. Whereas information from Pakistani state was found wanting, TTP was giving hour by hour update of their success on twitter

I find it hard to believe that our security and intelligence apparatus wasn’t complicit in this. And if it weren’t, then we have pretty incompetent security and intelligence agencies.

Introspection : Secularism _ a panacea?

Originally written on June 3, 2010

The Model Town incident in Lahore has restarted the exercise in introspection in the Pakistani media and blogosphere. The arguments always fall into similar categories: some say that  Quaid-e-Azam did not want an Islamic state just a Muslim state, others go as back as to blame the original sin of carving out Pakistan, a few point fingers at Objective Resolution and last but not the least the policies of Mard-e-momin Mard-e-haq Zia ul Haq for introducing Klashinkov culture . The arguments usually end with blaming Bhutto for introducing clause 260(3) in 2nd Amendment of constitution which defines Ahmedis as not Muslims concluding  invariably that all such terrorist activities will end once constitution of Pakistan is given a secular color.

What we seem to forget in these exercises is that the people carrying out the rampage have neither respect for constitution (secular or otherwise) nor seek any legitimacy from it for their heinous acts. They did not select Ahmedis as their targets because the constitution describes them as non Muslims.

Today they have murdered Ahmedis, but a few days ago they were murdering general population (religion/sect no bar) in moon market blasts in Lahore, prior to that attack during Friday prayers in Rawalpindi mosque, on Sri Lankan cricket team, on Manawan police academy outside Lahore, GHQ attack, shia procession, pathan roti walas and thailay walas in Karachi and prior to all this killing of shia professionals in Karachi.

What all this shows is total breakdown of law and order in the country. There are people hell bent on killing (people belonging to a particular group/sect/ethnicity might get killed more than others) and the state is incapable of doing anything against them.

I respect Quaid-e-Azam and what I am today is because of Pakistan and hence my gratitude for him. However, Quaid was not a prophet nor an angel. He was a mere mortal and mortals can make mistakes and not everything they do and say is 100% correct. This is not to say that he said anything wrong. He may have wanted a secular constitution but he believed in democratic principles and left it up to the people through their representatives on how they want to be ruled. If the constituent assembly or the future assemblies decide (rightly or wrongly) that Islam is to be state religion, then democratic principles imply that it should be.

Islam gives equal rights to people from other religions to practice. However, if the Muslim population does not allow the minorities equal rights, its not Islam’s fault, rather it is the fault of Muslims and Islam being the state religion has nothing to do with it.

When minorities are attacked, it has nothing to do with non-secular nature of the constitution. Take the case honor killings that take place in Sind and Balochistan (most secular of all the ethnicities in Pakistan). It does not have any implicit protection in the constitution. How many persons have been tried for honor killings?

Akbar Bugti ( murdered extra judicially by Musharraf) himself claimed to have murdered his subjects in his youth just because he could. Israullah Zahri of Balochistan National Party (secular party) and minister in the government had stated that we should respect the Baloch culture of burying women alive after five women were buried alive. Except for little hue and cry when he made the statement, nothing else has happened against him. He even did not have to resign or retract his statement.

I am not recommending here that constitution and law should not be improved. What I am implying is that even if we change the law, things will not improve because all this happens in spite of the law, not because of it.

With the exception of Zia and Nawaz Sharif, the country has been ruled by  secular or liberals. We lost half of the country under the stewardship of liberals i.e., Islam had nothing to do with it other than probably delaying the secession of Bangladesh. Seculars were ruling the country under a secular constitution. Compared to the murder and rape that took place in Bangladesh under secular governments in Pakistan, the current crimes against humanity pale in comparison.

Many commentators are exploiting the Lahore tragedy to spew vitriol against Islam. Will they be happy if so called Islamic injunctions are taken out of the constitution of Pakistan? I don’t think so because a few weeks ago some of them were spewing in a similar vein against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa asking for making Hazara region a separate province. And this is when Khyber is ruled by a secular party.

Karachi, which is ruled between PPP, ANP and MQM, all three are secular parties, is a boiling pot of ethnic tensions with once 16 people killed in single day and continue to get killed with NO hue and cry anywhere.

You can make the constitution as secular as you wish, but the fact is that secularization of laws will not make your problems go away. You need to be able to implement the law which (due to lack of resources or will) does not seem achievable in foreseeable future.

Facebook : Courts and Media

The issue of facebook has displayed the schisms in the Pakistani nation. Honestly speaking, I am proud of the court’s decision. When facebook which has ignored complaints over its privacy issues despite the fact that the global media and blogosphere is incessantly complaining about it, a decision by a Pakistani court to solicit such as reaction from the company is an achievement:

“We are very disappointed with the Pakistani courts’ decision to block Facebook without warning, and suspect our users there feel the same way,” Facebook said in a statement to AFP.

“We are analyzing the situation and the legal considerations, and will take appropriate action, which may include making this content inaccessible to users in Pakistan,” it said.

This is a company which is known for it arrogance when it comes to user issues.

However, our media is also stoking the fire. This is from yesterday’s DAWN

“What if they will ban it permanent? I will move out somewhere else,” one user wrote on his Facebook status update. Was this even a newsworthy item. I want to see this guy leave the country over facebook.

He could have said that banning facebook does not solve our energy issues, terrorism problems, education system, governance and institutional structures (the usual excuse by the media persons be it the 18th amendment, renaming NWFP to pukhtoonkhwa, banning facebook etc). No he is going to leave the country and DAWN finds the bravado worth reporting.

In blogosphere, a blogger was praising shias saying that in progressive shia sect, one is allowed to depict the Prophet. Its the sunni Islam that is against it. Nothing against the shias but I think he should get his facts straight. It wasn’t the sunnis (they might as well have) but Ayatollah Khomeini who came with a fatwa for death of Salman Rushdie. Certain people use every opportunity to propagate differences amongst people.

Civil right organizations losing their heads over the situation is the best part claiming that there is no censorship in developed countries. I suggest that they go and try denying holocaust in Continental Europe. They will end up behind bars the very day. Thats freedom of speech for you.

I would suggest that civil right organizations hold a comedy show in Karachi in which people try to make fun of Altaf Hussein. Lets see how many even make it to the event.

Facebook has been banned in lot of companies where my friends work for quite sometime because people waste a lot of time on it. Initially they felt withdrawal syndromes but within a week everyone adjusted. Its not like world stops turning forcing one to change employers or leave the country. Human beings are resilient and adaptive. They adjust.