ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has underscored the importance of countering misinformation about the polio vaccine.
He was addressing the National Ulema Conference on Polio Eradication here Thursday. During the conference, attended by religious scholars from various schools of thought, cabinet members, diplomats, and donors, the prime minister referred to anti-vaxxers as “ill-fated” individuals and urged the Ulema to stand against those spreading negative propaganda.
Kakar emphasized the collective responsibility to eliminate polio and achieve the goal of making Pakistan a polio-free nation.
The conference resulted in the adoption of a declaration that rejected baseless propaganda against the polio vaccine.
The Ulema expressed their full support for the government’s efforts to eradicate polio, emphasizing the importance of countering false narratives and ensuring the vaccine’s acceptance. Prime Minister Kakar thanked donors and supporters for their assistance, reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to eliminating polio without any laxity.
Expressing his concern, Prime Minister Kakar admitted feeling ashamed when witnessing a polio-crippled child, highlighting the avoidable circumstances leading to such situations. He called on the Ulema to follow Islamic principles of critical inquiry before accepting notions related to the polio vaccine, emphasizing the fundamental human right of children to live healthy lives.
The real challenge, according to Kakar, lies in conveying the message to remote areas and grassroots levels, where awareness about the importance of vaccination may be lacking. He urged the Ulema to play a pivotal role in reaching these communities and promoting the vaccination campaign effectively.
Touching on the situation in Gaza, Prime Minister Kakar condemned the killing of around 9,000 children by Israeli forces, deeming it a failure of humanity. Drawing parallels with historical acts of oppression, he called for a reassessment of Israel’s self-proclaimed identity and values.
Caretaker Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan stressed the impact of polio on national dignity and the country’s economy. He considered the disease a burden on the national exchequer and emphasized the role of individuals, particularly the Ulema, in addressing this national emergency. Dr Jan paid tribute to polio workers for their service against meager financial benefits.
Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Religious Harmony, read out the conference’s declaration, unanimously declaring the polio vaccine permissible for children’s safe future. The declaration assured Ulema’s supportive role and urged the government to ensure vaccine availability nationwide, enhance security for polio workers, and coordinate with Ulema in affected areas.
Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Ali Shalwani expressed gratitude to the Ulema for their participation in the conference. He highlighted their crucial role in guiding the public about the essentiality of the polio vaccine and countering negative propaganda to achieve the goal of a polio-free Pakistan by 2024.