-Pakistani Cleric backs Polio Vaccination Campaign

(BBC)

A prominent religious seminary in Pakistan has backed polio vaccinations, saying they are not un-Islamic. The decree was issued by the school’s head, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, who urged parents to immunize their children. Darul Uloom Haqqania wields great influence with Taliban groups.

The fatwa comes amid a decade-long campaign of violence by Islamist groups against health workers who they accuse of being spies or part of a Western plot to sterilize Muslims. There was no immediate response to the decree from the Taliban and a ban on polio vaccination imposed by the militants in Pakistan’s Waziristan tribal region is still in place, the BBC’s M. Ilyas Khan in Islamabad reports. A number of health workers administering polio drops to children have been killed in the past year by militants across Pakistan.

There were 35 cases of polio in Pakistan in 2012, according to the Polio Eradication Initiative. Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio remains endemic, due in part to militant resistance to polio mass vaccination campaigns. Nigeria and Afghanistan are the others.

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