disappointment in dreams
NA-151 has been
made to appear as a barometer to judge Pakistan’s politics; to discuss
political alignments and possible realignments; to measure one
institution’s strength versus the other. It is being sold as a sign of what
lies in store in the forthcoming elections. A closely-contested election, all
sides are drawing conflicting conclusions from it with an ease that defies
In a quirky way, the
results that were openly accepted by the contestants are privately being
mourned by the winning side and celebrated by the losers.
Some see a plot in the
getting together of all anti-PPP forces, a replay of the establishment’s
IJI-like design, while others see it as purely accidental. Whatever the
dynamics of this particular election, the potential alliance between the PML-N
and PTI in the next general election has not ceased to excite people’s
imagination ever since.
The PPP’s list of
grievances was endless though, curiously, the results did not quite match the
depth of that victimhood. One is not sure about the campaign but the strategy
was preemptive — so that if the results appeared bad it could say the party
was such a huge ‘victim’. It claims to have started with a disadvantage;
the one that made this election necessary — the disqualification and ouster
of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. But the contesting son was tainted too;
in the Hajj scandal. The younger brother was involved in the ephedrine
And yet none of the
opposition parties dared contest in its own name. They all chose to join
hands to defeat the Gilanis.
But that’s not where the
PPP’s list ends. It points at the anti-incumbency factor, all the
development work in Multan and around notwithstanding. A day before the
election, the PPP was complaining that the acting chief election commissioner
and the Punjab government were trying to influence the by-polls. The stakes,
it claimed, were high because Gilani’s success would mean a verdict against
the apex court. It even implied that the chief justice delayed the oath of
the new election commissioner by a day to let the polls day pass. It said CM
Shahbaz Sharif was in Khanewal to monitor the election.
And, of course, the new
election rules in a by-election which is the continuation of 2008 polls was
its other complaint. “Fixation of tents outside the polling stations, bar
on transportation of voters, ban on issuance of voter slips” were some of
the details, it said, that hit its voters hard.
Likewise, the opposing side
would have complaints of its own.
As for independent monitors
of NA-151 like Fafen, both sides flouted the new election rules with impunity
and tried to facilitate their voters as much as they could. It may have been
natural for the defeating candidate Shaukat Bosan to concede that the polls
were by and large free and that he accepted the results.
Although, as said earlier,
political observers have been reading too much into this by-election, there
are certain questions that are directly linked with the NA-151 by-polls and
indicate the direction that politics in this country could possibly take. For
instance: the possibilities of a PTI-PML-N alliance, the PPP’s prospects in
South Punjab, the reality or otherwise of the Seraiki sentiment and, most
importantly, the role of establishment in the coming elections.
Political pundits rule out
a PTI-PML-N pre-electoral alliance for a variety of reasons. Imran Khan, the
symbol of change, is weary of the two parties taking turns and wants to go
into the elections with this clear message. Others think it will be
logistically impossible for them because of the choice of candidates which is
more or less done by now; there will have to be a huge realignment of
candidates and both parties will find it difficult to find new candidates.
As for drawing some
conclusions about the PPP’s prospects in South Punjab from this one, the
party has the potential to capitalise on the Seraiki sentiment. In NA-151,
this sentiment did not come into play because there was one Seraiki pitched
against the other.
At the ideological level,
this sentiment touches all Seraiki people and Gilani (YRG) has emerged as a
leader of the Seraiki province. He is believed to have been punished on
political grounds and its claims of being a victim party sells well with the
people. With its share of gaddi nasheens and Jamshed Dastis of the world, the
PPP is well-equipped to win majority of the 40 or so National Assembly seats
in South Punjab.
So, finally, if the
establishment was not instrumental in getting the PPP’s opponents together
in NA-151, will it do so in the coming general elections? The role of the
establishment, whether overstated or not, shall remain in Pakistan’s
polity. There is an urge within the establishment to retain this role though,
on the face of it, the political parties do not look strong enough to take it
But the important question
that has been raised in the wake of this by-election is: if the establishment
is ready for another PPP victory? Cynics are ready to give it to the
establishment: the PPP, they say, has done nothing to annoy it; it gave
Kayani three years extension; the military runs the foreign policy, the Nato
supply routes as well as trade with India and so on.
To conclude, if the
establishment does not have a problem with the PPP, its relationship with all
other parties is, at best, a theoretical exercise. The analytical silver
lining could thus be — the next elections will be fair. At least that’s
one useful lesson from NA-151.
So, quite what has
Pakistan got to look forward to as the London Games of 2012 begin? What
dreams flicker beneath the light of the giant Olympic flame?
If the truth is to be told,
there are no hopes at all. Since 1992 at Barcelona, where Pakistan picked up
a somewhat unexpected field hockey bronze, the delegation from the country
has returned empty-handed from each of the games held over the last two
decades: the national flag has never been raised during this period above the
podium of winners, and the strains of the country’s national anthem have
not rung out around stadiums.
Indeed Pakistan has not won
a gold medal in any sport since its victory, again in hockey, at Los Angeles
in 1984. The occasional successes of the past in other sports — a wrestling
bronze at Rome in 1960, a boxing bronze at Seoul in 1988 — have never come
its way again. And of course, Pakistan alongside India no longer rules the
hockey field as it once did; picking up a medal of one colour or the other in
every Olympic competition it took part in between 1956 and 1984. This time
round even a hockey medal is unlikely — while sports officials at home
themselves concede there is no real hope in the other sports Pakistan’s
39-member delegation is competing in, including shooting, swimming and
athletics. The calibre lies way too far below the world’s best.
Why is this so? Let us
compare Pakistan’s performance with that of a few other countries. These
nations have populations far smaller than Pakistan’s 175 million people,
and certainly do not rank as rich or developed nations. Indeed, in
socio-economic terms, some, like Ethiopia, rank well below Pakistan. But that
war-torn country, with a population of just 84,734, 262 people claimed seven
medals, in Beijing in 2008, including four golds, all in long-distance
running events. Men and women runners shared the honours.
The small, Caribbean island
of Jamaica, with a population of 2,652,689 has of course established itself
as a sprinting power, collecting 11 medals in Beijing, including six golds,
all in track events. The depth of its extraordinary talent can be gauged from
the fact that Usain Bolt, the world 100-metre record holder with a remarkable
time of 9.58 seconds was beaten at the intensely contested Jamaican Olympic
trials by Yohan Blake, the current 100-metre world champion.
Other nations have
performed still more remarkable feats. Kenya with a population about
one-fourth the size of Pakistan claimed 14 medals in Beijing, all in
athletics, continuing a tradition that began in the 1960s. Cuba, with a still
smaller population of only 11,241,161 collected 24 medals in a range of
sports including wrestling, cycling, athletics, judo and shooting. Javier
Sotomayor, perhaps the best known athlete that country has produced,
astonishingly still holds the world high jump record of 2.45 metres set in
1993 — the longest standing men’s record in that event.
So, quite why does Pakistan
lag so far behind these countries? Some, like Cuba, may have emulated the
Eastern Europeans in promoting sport; others have depended largely on natural
talent — sometimes pushed on by local level coaches who saw potential in
villages and hamlets.
There can be little doubt
talent exists at home too. We only need to see the volley-ball skills of
weekend players in parks, the distances covered daily by children in mountain
areas as they race each other to school or the martial arts potentials of
youngsters in many places. The boxing and football talent for which Lyari was
once known has vanished amidst the violence that has over-taken the area
while the much discriminated against Hazaras of Quetta have been given little
opportunity to develop their exceptional gymnastic abilities.
Despite this, despite
extraordinary odds, talent has shone through — as in the case of Maria Toor
Pakay from South Waziristan who backed by her father broke with the harsh
traditions of her region to develop her abilities as a squash player now
vying for world ranking.
There can be no doubt
potential exists; so does the hunger to succeed. As in Kenya or Jamaica,
sport after all offers a means to rise above poverty. We need to find ways to
develop ability, and in fact regain the ground we have lost over the decades.
The failure of sports federations to develop their events needs to be
investigated. Lack of funding is a factor; we need to find patronage for
sports. But petty politics and indifference within sporting bodies are also
major problems, with too many officials interested only in finding for
themselves a way to gain a place aboard a plane headed overseas — even if
this comes at the cost of a berth for an athlete in need of experience and
A great deal then needs to
be thought about. Sporting success, perhaps most of all at the Olympics with
the huge audiences it attracts, is after all not just about collecting
medals. It is about giving nations a sense of pride, building hope within
them and giving children role models to emulate. We certainly need such
models; we need to lure youngsters away from worlds of violence or waste
towards something more meaningful. This is why sport is in many ways of
immense significance to us — as a means to build a nation that can rise to
new heights — literally and metaphorically — and gain standing in a world
where Pakistan today is associated too often only with extremism and all the
evils that rise from it.
He donned black
garments and went into seclusion. When he came out he bathed and sat down one
last time with his fakirs. He covered himself with a sheet and asked fakirs
to sing and play music. They did so without break for three days. When they
stopped, they found the Shah of Bhitt dead.
The fakirs are still
singing and playing at Bhitt Shah, less than an hour’s drive from
Hyderabad. It is said they haven’t missed a night in 260 years since Shah
Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sufi poet, musician and the patron-saint of Sindh,
passed away. They believe they owe it to the Shah: it’s his poetry they
sing, his composition they train their voices to, and his invention —
Tamboora — they play. They perform for him, not for visitors.
There aren’t any visitors
here anyway. It’s past midnight and the fakirs have just started their
nightly routine. They sit in a half circle in the corridor, directly opposite
the door behind which the Shah lies buried. Their singing style is unique,
employing liberal use of falsetto — voice that is an octave higher and
sounds like a woman’s — like Bee Gees.
Their only audience at the
moment are two groups of females lying on the polished floor. And they are
preparing to sleep. One group is made up of adult women talking in hushed
voices. The other is of young girls. They are seven in number and all aged
under 16. The Seven Queens of Abdul Latif. There’s Marvi, Momal, Noori,
that is Sohni, this is Sarath and Lila, and oh … in the place of Sassi,
there’s a little Punnun. The boy is around 10. Probably, the only brother
of six sisters. They have all put an arm under their heads for pillow, and
lie flat on their backs with their eyes closed.
But they are not asleep
yet. Fakirs’ raag dips into lower notes and their fingers caress the
strings of Tamboora ever so faintly, as if to lull the kids into sleep
despite bright lights shining above, and the noise from the outer courtyard.
The girl sleeping next to the boy turns on her side and puts a protective arm
on his shoulder. Without opening his eyes, he shrugs her hand away.
Outside the main building,
the graveyard at the back provides a quiet and unlit place for men to sleep,
and the expansive courtyard at the front is alive with music of a different
kind, and buzzing with the excitement of scores of people. They are gathered
in front of a stage equipped with sound amplifiers and meant for visiting
artistes. The crowd is thrilled to have here tonight Sanam Marvi, the singing
sensation they’d gladly pay five thousand rupees to listen live. And here
she is, out of sheer chance. She was passing by Bhit Shah, decided to stop at
the shrine for a prayer, and ended up on the stage.
She is wearing no make-up
and is dressed like a housewife offering namaaz: a simple lawn suit with a
full sized dupatta covering her head and front of her body. But even without
the production house-glamour, she is music to the crowd’s ear and poetry to
its heart. There is awe in the eyes of men as they watch her perform just a
few feet from them. Some are taking pictures with their mobile phone cameras.
A few have climbed the stage to shower money on her, which will be gathered
and given to the singer as a token of appreciation by her fans.
The fakirs can’t take
money for performing. Well they can, as Allan Fakir, Saeen Zahoor and several
others have done and are doing, just that Shah’s fakirs — the descendants
of those who played music and sang poetry of love and passion for three days
as a send-off for the Shah — cannot. In the corridor the women have fallen
quiet and the children are asleep, one arm folded under the head and rest of
the limbs scattered all over.
The fakirs have their eyes
closed as they try to concentrate on what they are doing. The outside music
is loud. Suddenly the tabla beat goes wild. The sound technician opens the
fader on tabla microphones to maximum. They are probably dancing outside but
fakirs can hardly hear themselves. They stop playing and singing and open
their eyes at the same time. They look at each other, and with a resigned
gesture, after only a moment’s pause, go back to doing what they must not
campaign involving over 300,000 personnel against polio has become so
controversial that even educated parents in urban areas like Peshawar and
Mardan are refusing their children to be administered polio drops.
Around 19,000 parents in
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) refused to vaccinate their children during a recent
three-day National Immunization Days (NIDs) campaign. It is shameful, as the
number of refusals went up from 11,000 of last year to 19,000, despite the
hiring of highly-paid union council communication officers (UCCO), hundreds
of social mobilisers and district support officers for KPK.
These highly-paid people
were supposed to persuade parents to vaccinate their offsprings against
polio, but it proved a failure as those selected for the purpose lacked the
skills required for the job.
“Instead of selecting
people on the basis of their education, they should have recruited locals
based on their experience and skill to mobilise parents,” a senior member
of a foreign-funded project says.
Dr Jan Baz Afridi, deputy
director Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), says some parents termed
polio drops an un-Islamic practice while others felt it was a conspiracy of
the West to infertile Pakistani men. And in the tribal areas, the Taliban
linked it to the drone attacks.
Despite attempts made by
the international donors, Pakistani authorities failed to vaccinate more than
240,000 children in the tribal agencies of North Waziristan and South
Waziristan and other parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
In North Waziristan and South Waziristan, the regional Taliban groups had
imposed a ban on anti-polio immunisation campaign as a mark of protest
against the US drone attacks.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who is
the Taliban chief in North Waziristan, banned anti-polio vaccination campaign
on June 16 until drone strikes are halted. Around 160,000 children couldn’t
be vaccinated there due to the ban.
“Until the drone attacks
are stopped, our ban on polio campaign would continue in Waziristan. The
drones proved more lethal and dangerous for people than polio,” Ahmadullah
Ahmadi, a spokesman for Hafiz Gul Bahadur, tells TNS.
Similar is the case in the
neighbouring South Waziristan Agency where local Taliban, led by Maulvi
Nazeer, banned the campaign, depriving 80,000 children of anti-polio drops.
The Taliban argued they had taken the decision in the larger interest of the
tribespeople, particularly children.
The government had set a
target of 1.06 million children in Fata to be vaccinated during the three-day
campaign but it dropped to 754,000. Besides North Waziristan and South
Waziristan, where one polio case each has been reported this year so far, the
government was unable to reach out to hundreds of children in parts of
Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, Mohmand and Bajaur tribal regions due to poor
security measures and lack of writ of the state.
The situation in Khyber
Agency is said to be the worst as out of 23 polio cases reported this year in
Pakistan, nine were detected in Khyber Agency. There were also reports that
the government had started back-door negotiations with the Taliban leaders
through senior clerics and officials of the political administration.
There are various factors
which hampered this noble mission against the viral disease in the country,
including malicious propaganda against the immunisation campaign from
religious elements, misconceptions associated with the vaccination drive and
growing corruption within the institutions involved in the campaign. And then
there is poor surveillance, assessment and monitoring system.
Pakistan is currently among
the three unfortunate countries where polio virus still exists — the two
others are war-ravaged Afghanistan and Nigeria.
The doctors and health
workers engaged in polio immunisation are now seriously worried about the
anti-polio drive. They feel the fake campaign launched by Dr Shakeel Afridi
in Abbottabad to help CIA track down Osama bin Laden has made their job more
difficult and controversial.
Pakistani officials say
since Dr Shakeel Afridi has never been part of WHO or Unicef, therefore the
WHO and Unicef should have cleared their position on this issue in time.
“The story of Dr Shakeel appeared in the Guardian in June 2011 about his
running of fake polio campaign, but the WHO and Unicef remained silent for
almost a year, which was damaging for the fight against polio,” a senior
official associated with polio eradication programme tells TNS.
Also, the influx of
foreigners is another reason behind poor immunisation.
Dr Mohammad Rafiq,
Unicef’s focal person for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, is of the opinion
that polio is still a big problem in Pakistan. “If one polio case is
diagnosed that means the virus is existing in 200 other houses of the
neighbourhood,” he tells TNS.
Still a long way to go.
between Afghanistan and Pakistan have often been uneasy and uncertain, but
recent incidents at certain points on their long and porous Durand Line
border have contributed to the bitterness in the relationship.
The Afghan government has
threatened to report to the United Nations Security Council against shelling
by Pakistani security forces on its villages along the Durand Line in which
civilians were killed, injured and displaced. It warned that the attacks
could adversely affect ties between the two neighbouring countries.
On its part, Islamabad has
repeatedly complained about the cross-border attacks in its territory by
militants based in Afghanistan and demanded action against them. Officials
have hinted that relations between Pakistan and Nato could again plunge into
a crisis if these attacks weren’t immediately controlled.
When new Prime Minister
Raja Pervez Ashraf paid his first visit to Afghanistan on July 19, Pakistani
officials said he would raise the issue of the attacks by Pakistani militants
operating from across the border in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and
Nuristan. The Afghan government officials also said they would take up the
issue of the shelling and rocketing by Pakistan’s security forces into
Kunar province with the visiting Prime Minister.
The two sides, as promised,
raised the two issues and the matter was discussed in talks between Prime
Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and President Hamid Karzai, but the cross-border
attacks from Afghanistan’s territory and the shelling from Pakistan’s
areas continued. It is obvious that whatever assurances were given in the
bilateral talks and also during the trilateral summit between the Afghan and
Pakistani leaders and British Prime Minister David Cameroon in Kabul
weren’t acted upon on the ground along the Pak-Afghan border.
As the Afghan government
had threatened to approach the UN Security Council if bilateral talks with
Pakistan failed to bring a halt to the shelling into Afghanistan’s Kunar
province, it now remains to be seen if Kabul would act on the threat. If that
happens, the already distrustful Pak-Afghan relations would be further
regarding the tense situation on its western border increased when a
cross-border attack into Pakistan’s Kurram Agency was launched on July 25.
Pakistani security officials said around two dozen militants took part in the
attack on the military’s Nawazish Post in Kurram Agency and caused injuries
to two soldiers. They added that Pakistani troops retaliated and forced the
intruding militants to retreat to their sanctuaries in Afghanistan.
Though some reports said
the attack was launched by Afghan soldiers, the Pakistan military officials,
who requested anonymity, insisted that militants were involved in it. There
have been no reports in the past that Pakistani militants had found
sanctuaries in Afghan territory bordering Kurram Agency. If true, this was
the first time that the militants attacked Pakistan’s security posts in
Kurram Agency, which has borders with Afghanistan’s Paktia, Khost and
Nangarhar provinces. It could mean that Pakistani Taliban militants had also
set up bases in these Afghan provinces.
Earlier, Pakistani Taliban
fighters based in Kunar and Nuristan provinces in eastern Afghanistan were
launching the cross-border attacks in Pakistan’s Lower, Dir, Upper Dir and
Chitral districts and the tribal region of Bajaur. The opening of the new
frontline targetting Kurram Agency would only add to the tension on the
border and cause further distrust in the Pak-Afghan relationship.
authorities had alleged that some 60 Afghan soldiers entered Kurram Agency
sparking clashes and killing two tribesmen. Afghan government denied that it
soldiers entered Pakistani territory. It said its soldiers chased down
attackers in Shahr-u-Nau area in Paktia province who crossed over to
Though several cross-border
attacks from Afghanistan had taken place last year also in Lower Dir, Upper
Dir, Chitral and Bajaur and killed more than 100 Pakistan Army and Frontier
Corps soldiers, Levies and police personnel and pro-government members of the
tribal lashkars, the situation didn’t deteriorate to the extent to cause
further bitterness in the relations between Islamabad and Kabul. Pakistan did
complain and asked Afghanistan and the Nato military commanders to help stop
The situation this year is
different and could spiral out of control. The border incidents in the past
few months have raised the temperature and patience seems to be wearing thin
in both Islamabad and Kabul. The verbal sparring has become intense and both
Afghanistan and Pakistan summoned each other’s ambassador in the two
capitals to lodge formal protest over the border incidents.
Islamabad took the step
when 17 Pakistan Army soldiers were killed in a cross-border attack in Upper
Dir district bordering Afghanistan. The Afghan government soon afterwards
complained that mortar rounds fired by Pakistani security forces had hit
border villages in Kunar province and caused human and material losses to the
Pakistan has been rejecting
the Afghan claims and also complaining that the Karzai government and the
US-led Nato forces had failed to take action against the Pakistani militants
linked to the TTP hiding in Afghanistan and using the Afghan territory to
launch attacks in Pakistan’s border areas.
Pakistan’s civil and
military officials had to discuss the issue and reports emerged that
Pakistani security forces in the border areas would be reinforced to cope
with the growing challenge posed by the Pakistani militants who fled to
Afghanistan after the military operations in Swat and rest of Malakand
division in 2009 and also in Bajaur and Mohmand tribal agencies.
Estimates vary but it is
believed up to 1,000 Pakistani Taliban, mostly from Malakand division led by
Maulana Fazlullah and those from Bajaur and Mohmand agencies headed by
Maulana Faqir Mohammad and Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid, respectively, were
now based in Afghanistan.
The issue also figured high
on the Afghan government agenda and was debated in both the upper and lower
houses of parliament in Afghanistan. Afghan lawmakers condemned Pakistan for
committing aggression and killing and injuring Afghan nationals. In a recent
session of the Meshrano Jirga, Afghanistan’s Upper House of Parliament, in
Kabul, Pakistani leaders were referred to as Hitler, Stalin, Chengez Khan and
Halaku Khan of this age and blamed as the killers of the Afghan people. The
members of parliament termed as fraud the peace jirgas being held between
Afghanistan and Pakistan and flayed the Nato and the Afghan government for
failing to put an end to Pakistani aggression. The strong words used by the
Afghan MPs showed the depth of hatred and anger
The criticism of the US and
its Nato allies for failing to take note of the cross-border shelling from
Pakistan finally had an impact when the Nato-led International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan criticised Pakistan for the attacks.
The ISAF condemnation closely followed a warning from Kabul that shelling and
rocket attacks in future could significantly harm relations between
Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was obvious that the US-led Nato was siding with
Kabul in the matter and putting pressure on Islamabad to stop the shelling
even if it was in retaliation to the cross-border attacks on its posts in
Though a Pentagon spokesman
George Little later said that the US was working with both Pakistan and
Afghanistan to limit violence along the border, the statement by the US and
Nato military commander, General John Allen, was meaningful when he said they
would help stop the cross-border attacks into Pakistan if Islamabad took
action against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan.
One can’t really
escape star cricketer Shahid Afridi on the congested, muddied roads of
Lahore, on rickshaws, cars, buses, wall posters, billboards, hoardings —
and in newspaper adverts, radio and television.
This time the cause is not
his sport: he is advocating wiping out polio from Pakistan. “Pakistan and
Afghanistan are two countries where polio cases are reported in huge numbers.
I met with families of those affected, children who were crippled — because
either they never got polio drops or even if they did it wasn’t on time,”
Afridi talks about his new role as an ambassador of a polio champion.
“As a national figure, it
is my duty to spread the awareness message,” he says.
In 2011, Pashtuns made up
about 75 per cent of polio cases reported in the country.
Afridi, who hails from
Khyber Agency in the tribal belt, has been roped in by the Unicef, World
Health Organisation (WHO) and Prime Minister’s Monitoring and Coordination
Cell for Polio Eradication as a face of 2012 campaign.
“My campaign commercials
have been recorded in Urdu and Pashto, so yes my USP (Universal Selling
Point) is being well used. If the Pashtuns can’t comprehend the message in
Urdu, they certainly will in Pashto,” he says.
Also a Goodwill Ambassador
of the UN on Drugs and Crime, Afridi is pleased with how the campaign is
taking shape. In the first six months of 2012, Pakistan had 22 confirmed
polio cases in 13 districts, down from 58 in 24 districts during the same
period in 2011.
“I’ve been getting
positive feedback from all over Pakistan and especially the tribal belt,”
communications specialist, Polio Eradication Initiative, Unicef, elaborates
on the 2012 campaign, “There have been five immunisation campaigns already
this year, and there are three more scheduled for the end of the year. Unicef
works closely with the government of Pakistan and other polio partners like
the World Health Organisation to ensure Pakistanis are reached with correct
information about the vaccine, the campaign and how to have their child
Coleman believes it is not
just about awareness. “Awareness is the first step. Really, it is about
ensuring that all caregivers understand the risk of polio, the need for the
vaccine and with both the awareness and information, decide to have their
children under-five vaccinated,” he says.
“This then takes the form
of a multi-pronged approach ranging from mass media (TV, radio etc), to
celebrity endorsement, working with religious and medical communities, to
interpersonal communication using people from the same areas to address
queries on polio and its vaccine,” Coleman explains.
But Imran Zaki, marketing
professional, Momentum Worldwide, critiques the campaign, saying, “There
has to be an out-of-the-box treatment of the campaign. The traditional media
(TV and radio) might not serve the purpose, as in the past when there was one
state-run channel. Today, since there is a clutter of television channels,
the message might get missed while surfing between talk shows.”
The problem lies in rural
areas rather than the urban metropolis. The awareness message should reach
the masses in the underdeveloped areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Zaki thinks
that mobile advertising through text messages can be most-effective even in
far-flung areas of KPK.
“Fata and KPK have always
been a priority. There is currently a targeted communication strategy being
developed to reach out to the diverse populations in the tribal areas. There
are unique challenges facing families there, so we have to cater our
communication work to meet these challenges,” Coleman says.
Interestingly, Unicef notes
that refusals are actually quite few — one to two per cent, depending on
the area. There are over a thousand social mobilisers targeting the highest
risk districts in the country. They are normally from the communities which
they serve and are available to provide reliable information, key messages
and support on polio vaccination information. “This is normally proven to
be the most effective form of communication, complimenting other efforts,
including mass media,” Coleman says.
Mazhar Nisar, health
education adviser, Prime Minister’s Monitoring and Coordination Cell for
Polio Eradication, says a vacuum was created after the devolution under the
18th Amendment in 2009, and there was a need for an apex body that could
overall monitor and coordinate the polio activities in all the provinces.