Between polio and the jihadist pox

Dr M Taqi
The religious extremists were co-opted by the security apparatus, not by the civilians. The signal to decommission them also has to come from the brass Mankind has been practising some form of vaccination since almost when it first discovered diseases and understood that those conditions could kill, disable or disfigure. Ancient populations knew, for example, that people could be immunised against smallpox by inoculating them with it. The practice of scarification where the inoculums — the material taken from the afflicted person — was applied on to small superficial incisions, was practised from the Far East to Europe. As far back as 1500 BC, the Indian physician Dhanwantari is said to have performed it. The Arab-Persian Muslim physician Muhammad bin Zakariya ar-Razi, known to the west as Rhazes, wrote the first treatise on smallpox in 920 AD and described the differences between smallpox and measles. Inoculation went to Europe from Turkey in 1701 when a physician Timoni described the process as he had observed it in Constantinople. The idea was simple: to create immunity in healthy people by producing a mild disease using a weak (attenuated) live or dead contagion and thus protect against the severe form of the disease. On June 18, 1774, the very young King Louis XVI of France was inoculated against smallpox. The American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not that lucky against his disease. He ended up becoming the most famous polio patient in history. But not just that, he also became a champion against the disease. FDR founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis that is called the March of Dimes Foundation today. This organisation funded the research to develop a vaccine against polio. D. Jonas Salk along with his associates was successful in developing the first polio vaccine in 1952 at the University of Pittsburgh. The vaccine’s trial, in which 1.3 million US children participated, was completed in 1955. However, what is today given as the oral polio vaccine (OPV) was developed by a US physician Dr Albert Sabin, a Polish-American who interestingly worked closely with the Soviets to test the vaccine. The 1959 Soviet OPV trial had enrolled 10 million children. Sabin’s OPV was later tested and it became the standard in the US too. The polio vaccine is not the only shining legacy of those who stood firm against the debilitating and deadly disease. What is today known as mechanical ventilation or life support by artificial breathing machine was originally developed as the Iron Lung in 1929 to help the paralytic polio patient breathe. Fast forward to Pakistan at the end of 2012 now. Nine healthcare workers, mostly women, administering OPV have been killed in cold blood. The Taliban and/or other jihadist groups have been blamed for these heinous murders. The campaign by the religious zealots against healthcare workers as well as preventive health measures is not new. These extremists allege that the polio vaccine causes male infertility and precocious puberty in females. These charges are not new either. When iodised salt was introduced a few decades ago where thyroid disease was endemic, it was blamed for similar adverse effects. Vaccines can fail or cause allergic or adverse reactions; Salk’s vaccine did and was stopped at one point. The Soviets were however not blamed by the US for the vaccine’s failure to prevent certain forms of polio or for the impurities that caused problems. But in the land of the pure it has to be a conspiracy of the ‘infidels’ to sterilise the pure in the land. The bottom line is that one cannot empower and embolden the ultra-fanatics in matters of politics, order them to conduct violence in the name of jihad and expect that somehow this would not spill over into other areas of life. It is not possible to mobilise such legions on the street to protest the US presence in Afghanistan and expect that they would not use this same muscle to protest whatever else they feel is ‘wrong’. By sharing the monopoly on violence with the jihadists outside its borders, the Pakistani state inevitably shared it within the country too. If the man on the pulpit has been propped up to think that he can commission jihad and bring down two superpowers in less than 30 years, what is to keep him from commissioning his flock to take out a few healthcare workers? Just as it is erroneous to assume that jihadists can be programmed to operate nine-to-five and take the weekends off when told to, it is foolish to assume that once authorised to use violence for political issues they would not use it to pursue their social or doctrinal agenda. After the attack on the Pakistan Air Force base and the attached airport in Peshawar, there has been talk by some quarters that the civilians did not show leadership and take the terrorism bull by the horns. I, too, have lamented the lacklustre civilian leadership many times. However, the way the Pakistani street is mobilised to protest whatever Pakistan’s security establishment wants sends a different message to the secular political parties. Pressure applied from the street, which is given full support by the Urdu media, sets the dial to the right each time politicians try to bring it to the centre. Also, when the only Pakistani ambassador who took a firm stand in favour of civilian supremacy over the military is held hostage for weeks, it does not encourage the civilians to take charge. In this matter, even the superior judiciary had seemed to play along with the security establishment. But then again the same judiciary sent an elected prime minister packing but set free sectarian terrorists. There is no chicken and egg situation here. The religious extremists were co-opted by the security apparatus, not by the civilians. The signal to decommission them also has to come from the brass. Some clerics ostensibly being used to counter the extremist narrative have a clear agenda against healthcare issues like contraception and more ominously against the vulnerable communities like the Ahmadiyah. They openly consort with the domestic sectarian terrorists who harbour and work in tandem with the transnational jihadists. Empowering such clergymen would merely replace one set of fanatics with another and the political paralysis they have and will cause is as bad as that from polio. Using fatwas to counter fatwas is not going to work and Pakistan would remain caught between polio and the jihadist pox that is of its own making.

A ‘Lost Tribe’ that is lost no more

Fundamentally Freund: The return of the Bnei Menashe to our people is a tangible reminder of the power of Jewish memory to overcome all obstacles, and the inevitability of Jewish destiny to prevail. This past Monday, as the Uzbekistan Airways flight began its descent to Tel Aviv, over 50 pairs of eyes looked out the plane’s windows, anxious to catch a glimpse of their new home. For more than 27 centuries, their ancestors had wandered in exile, clinging to the dream that one day, despite the odds, they would somehow be able to return. And now, at last, that age-old ambition was poised to become reality, as 53 new immigrants from the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India came in for a safe landing at Ben-Gurion Airport. Who says we don’t live in an age of miracles? The Bnei Menashe are descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel exiled by the Assyrian empire in 722 BCE. Despite being cut off from the rest of the Jewish people for so many centuries, the Bnei Menashe remained dedicated to their heritage, stubbornly cleaving to the faith of their forefathers. They observed the Sabbath and kept kosher, celebrated the festivals, practiced the sacrificial rites and even argued a lot among themselves, just as Jews have done since time immemorial. Indeed, the Bnei Menashe never forgot who they are or where they came from, or where they one day dreamt of returning. That fidelity is now being rewarded as their remarkable odyssey comes full circle and they make their way back to their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel. THE 53 new arrivals constituted the first group of Bnei Menashe that Shavei Israel, the organization I founded and chair, has been able to bring on aliya since 2007, when the Olmert government inexplicably decided to freeze the immigration of these precious souls. But after five long and often lonely years of pounding the pavement as well as a number of bureaucrats’ desks, we were able at last to persuade the powers that be to open the door once again for the Bnei Menashe. In a unanimous and historic decision, the Israeli cabinet on October 24 passed resolution 5180, which formally restarted the aliya and granted Shavei Israel permission to bring an initial group of 274 Bnei Menashe back home to Zion. The 53 immigrants who arrived earlier this week were the first batch from among the 274, while the remainder will come here over the next month. This is all being made possible thanks to some generous Jewish philanthropists in Europe and the United States, as well as some of Israel’s Christian friends. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is covering most of the cost of the flights for the immigrants, while Bridges for Peace and others are helping to fund their absorption. The new arrivals will join the 1,700 Bnei Menashe who are already living in the Jewish state, and have become an integral part of Israeli society. I HAVE had a lot of emotional and uplifting experiences over the years, but few can compare with those of the past several days, which I spent in India together with the Bnei Menashe as they prepared to make aliya. Though normally restrained and undemonstrative of their emotions in public, it was difficult for the immigrants to control their excitement and nervousness as the day of departure approached. At the Beit Shalom synagogue in Churachandpur, Manipur, an overflow crowd of worshipers prayed and sang with extraordinary intensity, led by their longtime hazzan (cantor), Shlomo Haokip. “This is our last Sabbath in exile,” one of the men told me, his voice choking with emotion. “Next week, we will merit to greet the Sabbath queen in the Land of Israel. It is a dream come true!” Later, on the bus ride to the airport, the Bnei Menashe burst into song, chanting the prophet Jeremiah’s prediction (31:16) with ever-increasing intensity, “and the sons shall return to their borders.” Finally, many hours later, after the plane had landed at Ben-Gurion Airport and we emerged from the gate, the entire group stood as one, turned their faces heavenward and recited the Sheheyanu blessing, thanking God for sustaining and enabling them to reach this joyous day. After being processed by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, they emerged into the arrivals hall at Terminal 3, where relatives and loved ones fell upon them, showering them with tears and a hearty welcome home. And then, in a remarkable scene, we all stood at attention and recited one of the most rousing versions of “Hatikvah” I have ever heard, as throngs of onlookers joined with us in serenading the Jewish state that made all this possible. The return of the Bnei Menashe to our people is a tangible reminder of the power of Jewish memory to overcome all obstacles, and the inevitability of Jewish destiny to prevail. Let anyone who doubts the power of the Jewish spirit take a moment to consider the wonder of it all. A tribe of Israel, once deemed lost forever, is lost no more.
The writer is founder and chairman of Shavei Israel (, which assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities to return to the Jewish people.

US diplomat writes and sings Pashto song for Malala

Jenaiy from Black Box Sounds on Vimeo.

A US diplomacy official has written and sang a Pashto song “Jenaiy”, which means “girl”, as a tribute to Malala Yousufzai, the teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting education for girls. She has taken a novel approach to diplomacy in Pakistan – singing in a local language to build bridges, where anti-Americanism runs rampant. Shayla Cram, a public diplomacy officer assigned to Peshawar, the gateway to al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in the northwestern tribal belt, has not only learnt Pashto but has penned her own Pashto-style song. It features Cram on guitar and vocals and a Pakistani musician, Sarmad Ghafoor, on the rabab — a traditional stringed instrument — and urges girls to have hope for the future and pursue their dreams.

Malala: Symbolizing the right of girls to education

“Stand up for Malala -- Stand up for girls’ right to education!” is the rallying cry of an advocacy event, taking place at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters on 10 December, the United Nations Human Rights Day. Organized by UNESCO and the Government of Pakistan, the event will accelerate political action to ensure every girl’s right to go to school, and to advance girls’ education as an urgent priority for achieving Education For All.
The event pays tribute to Malala Yousafazi, an astonishingly brave 15 year old girl who survived an assassination attempt for her determined efforts to defend girls’ education in Paskistan, after the Taliban outlawed schools for girls in her native Swat Valley. The human rights to education and gender equality were both violated by this action. “Whenever and wherever a young girl is forbidden from going to school, it’s an attack against all girls, against the right to learn, the right to live life to the full; and it is unacceptable,” declared UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova last month in an official manifestation of support for Malala. Indeed, there is no justification – be it cultural, economic or social – for denying girls and women an education. Humanity stands as a single community when united around human rights and fundamental freedoms.Malala’s struggle highlights a devastating reality: Girls make up the majority of the world’s 61 million out-of-school children. They are less likely than boys to enter primary school. Harmful practices such as early marriage, gender-based violence, discriminatory laws, prevent them from enrolling in or completing school. Educational disparities start at the youngest ages and continue into adulthood. Women represent two thirds of the world’s 775 million illiterates. Despite making breakthroughs in higher education, women still account for just 29 per cent of researchers.
There can be no equitable and just society without achieving gender equality, beginning with education. UNESCO is committed to the full enrolment of girls and ensuring they stay in school, from primary through secondary and on into higher education. Education accelerates political, economic and social transformation, giving girls the tools to shape the world according to their aspirations. It has a positive impact on child and maternal health, fertility rates, and poverty reduction. It is a life multiplier. For example, women with post-primary education are 5 times more likely than illiterate women to be knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS prevention. n her famous blog about life under Taliban rule, Malala reacts to the destruction of schools, and especially girls’ schools: “Five more schools have been destroyed, one of them was near my house. I am quite surprised, because these schools were closed so why did they also need to be destroyed?” As UNESCO’s 2011 Global Monitoring Report reveals, children and schools today are on the front line of armed conflicts, with classrooms, teachers and pupils seen as legitimate targets. The consequence, as one UN report puts it, is “a growing fear among children to attend school, among teachers to give classes, and among parents to send their children to school”. Saluting Malala’s courage, Ms Bokova offered this sobering reminder of the global situation: “This April, in Afghanistan, more than 100 high school students from the Takhar province were poisoned by fanatics hostile to girls’ education. In Mali, young girls are married by force, recruited by militia, and prevented from going to school and leading a dignified life. Malala is the symbol of all of these young girls.”
How many other girls see their access to education impeded by violence, either threatened or actual? Why are girls and women the principal victims of such threats? Rather than lying on the frontline of conflict, education must be at the forefront of building peace.UNESCO reacted to news of Malala’s shooting, which also left two other girls injured, in an official condemnation. “Guns cannot be allowed to wipe out the right to education or the right to freedom of expression… It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to stand up against this,” said the Director General. To close the 190th session of UNESCO’s Executive Board, all 58 Member States took up this call, standing in a moment of silence and holding photographs of Malala. The launch of the 2012 Education For All Global Monitoring Report in Islamabad was dedicated to Malala, to emphasize that girls' education is a must if development targets in Pakistan are to be achieved. “My purpose is to serve humanity,” Malala once said in an interview, with a maturity well beyond her years. Like so many young people today, Malala is helping to change the world. Malala’s passionate advocacy shows the power of aspirations for human rights to move history. UNESCO’s event on 10 December draws strength from her example. There are no immovable barriers to gender equality and education for all. Her dream is ours. We are all Malala.

Kalabagh Dam verdict: Lawyer says legal points ignored

The former vice-president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Barrister Baachaa on Friday stated that the Lahore High Court had ignored several legal points while delivering a judgment in favour of Kalabagh Dam. In a press statement issued here, Barrister Baachaa said the petition decided by the LHC was not maintainable as the three provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan were not made party to it. He stated that the three provinces were necessary parties to the controversy of Kalabagh Dam and deciding that controversial issue without hearing them was unjust. He added that while the LHC mentioned a controversial decision of the Council of Common Interest of 1991 in support of the dam it altogether ignored the resolutions passed by the provincial assemblies of the three provinces. Barrister Baachaa pointed out that under the constitution deciding the controversy of Kalabagh Dam was not in the powers of the high court and in fact the LHC had overstepped its constitutional jurisdiction given in article 199 of the Constitution. He stated that the arguments mentioned by the LHC in support of construction of the dam were based on assumptions primarily attached with the interest of Punjab. He added the controversial project was aimed at irrigating the barren lands of Punjab. He regretted that while the court referred to production of electricity it ignored to mention the importance of Basha Dam in this regard. The senior advocate stated that the LHC had referred to article 154 of the Constitution and ordered the government to implement the decision of CCI, whereas under sub-article 7 of the said article the three provinces had the right to bring the issue to the parliament and unless the parliament endorsed the decision of CCI it could not be implemented.