Do parents have the right to give their children crippling diseases? There are two social norms at play here. The first that parents know what is best for their children, no matter what. A dictum, repeated ad nauseam by parents, whether to control the lives of their children, or actual misplaced belief that they really do know best, just by dint of having given birth. The second is ignorance, now our national pastime. How many of these parents, ready to kill anyone pointing polio drops at their children, have actually gone to a doctor, picked up a medical journal, consulted a library, tried to access internet material… done any independent fact checking apart from believing rumours and mullah created hearsay.

The Sindh home ministry has imposed a ban on pillion-riding till March 23 to thwart any untoward incident in the wake of new anti-polio vaccination campaigns in Karachi. This is the extent to which the polio myopia has spread in Pakistan. Has it come to a point, where the life of a polio worker holds no value, but the risk that someone else’s child might be sterilised by polio drops is all that matters for men with guns on bikes. Gunmen on Tuesday killed two women who were members of a polio vaccination team and a police guard in Mansehra. However, FATA has recorded only six polio cases in 2015 against the 40 cases, recorded during the same period last year, owing to better security situations that ensured frequent vaccination in the militancy-stricken areas. The purging of militants has also purged the area of polio. Vaccinators have been repeatedly vaccinating 90 per cent children during the past seven months in North and South Waziristan, and the drive has been most effective for IDPs.

Cambodian communist militants in the 1970s banned the import and production of western medicine. It led to famine and malaria epidemics. At least a million people died. Can the state take away the right of a parent to refuse medicine? Beliefs cannot serve as a proxy for science, but they do here in Pakistan, from chemistry books quoting Quranic verses to maulvis being authorities on health care.