By Sabah Aslam
Biology is the study of life but many in the recent times, when conventional warfare is almost disappearing, the study of life is used for killing humankind. Despite all the marvels that this particular field gifts human beings with, one must not forget its role in almost wiping out life from the face of earth. The same biological research that was initiated as a savior of homo sapiens have been turned into an assassin by some realist powers. What could have been used for the uplifting of a civilization, is now used to turn it into a memory.
History has witnessed various moments where biological hazards infected the cities and countries. Black death in 14th century had left a significant footprint on the history of Europe. Plague of Justinian in 541-542 was another nightmare, which Europe went through. It is said that it wiped half of the continent’s population with approximately 25million dead. However, with the passage of time the severity lessened. While various states are trying to eliminate other such diseases that pose threat to human life, there is always another side of the coin and in this regard the other side is dark and chaotic.
Smallpox was said to be used as a weapon in conquests of inca by pizarro. It is also said that the Black death which was scorched upon Europe was initiated when Mongols used infected carcasses and catapulted them into the city of Kafa of now known as Feodosia. In the contemporary history, WW1 saw the use of Anthrax while WW2 witnessed the use of biological warfare aside of nuclear. Similarly, Iraq used Sarin, Tabun and chemical agents during Iran- Iraq war and on Kurds.
After World War-I states went for bio weaponing themselves in order to have superiority over their nemesis. In this regard, many biological facilities were established for research. Although, later after the establishment of United Nations numerous treaties and regimes came into force and banned any such actions which can harm the human race. The Biological weapons conventions remains as one of the most efficient one in order to halt such horrendous actions to eliminate humans. Despite the fact that the first multilateral agreement, the Geneva Protocol, was made in 1925 which was signed by 108 states it seems that laws are subject to moral obligations, thus many states continue to do so in order to have sufficient knowledge of bio-synthesis. In 1968 about 6000 sheep near a government facility in US were poisoned by a chemical weapon known as VX, which was created in a facility. Not only this in 2002 a group of scientists in New York at Stony brook created the first artificially synthesis Polio virus. Later the news was covered by New York Times and it was revealed after subtle investigation by the agencies that the study was funded by the DARPA, a US government entity. It is clear that states are being sneaky in researches on biosynthesis and are looking forward to have an edge in bio-weaponry.
What differentiates biological warfare with conventional one is that biological weapons needs a single entity, mostly humans as, carrier and human body becomes potential weapon. While the Europe and West, along with engaging in such acts are finding solutions as well, yet the underdeveloped part of the world remains aloof from any such understanding.
Pakistan facing many problems had rarely focused or done some work to counter in case of emergency. Being the immediate neighbor of China and keeping in view the rising threat of Corona virus the authorities in Pakistan should be alarmed and show maximum restraint in order to combat what apparently seems a biological threat. In case of Pakistan, the question is simple that how much are we prepared in order to combat any sort of mischief event.
Most of the time, any parochial outbreak is politicized like any other social issue and politicians rant while death toll rises. Recent dengue outbreak is one of the examples where there were no ample resources and management either on federal or provincial level. Despite the fact that after 18th amendment health was no longer, a matter of federal concern and was made the provincial subject in order to make things more effective. However, things did not go as planned. The politicians stuck in parochial politics deliberately neglected the fatal effects of not focusing on health.
Under these circumstances, Pakistan needs proper structural understanding of not only about pandemics but also needs to focus on the discourse of biological warfare. Academia and professionals need to be employed with maximum possible resources. The country needs proper professional and academic facilities in order to cope-up with the growing threat of epidemics and biological warfare. Keeping the status-quo of Pakistan in consideration it would be a tough nut to crack but it is high time that we look towards the professional practitioners.
Sabah Aslam is the Founder & Executive Director of Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR), and member visiting faculty Dept. of Peace & Conflict Studies, NUML, and School of Politics & IR, Quaid-I- Azam University, Islamabad.