Pakistan, along with Nigeria and Afghanistan, remains one of the last places in the world where polio still persists. Pakistan is, in particular, sorely afflicted because the Taliban have been conducting a campaign against polio eradication campaigns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA regions.
A press release by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad says, “All persons – adults and children – traveling to India from Pakistan after January 30, 2014 are required to obtain Oral Polio Vaccination (OPV) at least six week prior to their departure to India, but not more than one year before such departure. Travelers from Pakistan to India after January 30, 2014 are required to carry their vaccination record as evidence of Polio vaccination will be requested for entry into India thereafter.”
The polio vaccine, the statement says, is valid only for a year, so it will have to be taken again, if the person is travelling to India again. The move, it explained, “is being taken to safeguard India’s polio-free status attained after sustained after large efforts and investment. It is applicable to all travelers from all countries where polio disease is endemic or where cases of polio are reported. It is also applicable to Indian nationals travelling to and from these countries.” The same rules will apply to travel from Nigeria and Afghanistan as well.
Pakistan’s militants have long had an uneasy history with polio vaccination, with several religious leaders asserting it was a Western conspiracy to make Pakistani children sterile. But a concerted targeting of anti-polio campaigns by the Taliban came after the Osama bin Laden hit in 2011. US government said they used a fake polio vaccination programme to harvest DNA of bin Laden’s family members from their hideout in Abbottabad. Since July 2012, at least 22 polio workers have been killed.
However, there has been a change of heart in recent weeks. Last week, Sami-ul-Haq, head of the powerful Darul uloom Haqqania, put out a fatwa that polio vaccines are not un-Islamic and asked Pakistanis to get themselves and their children vaccinated. It’s the first reversal of opposition by radical Islamic groups in Pakistan.