There is something particularly odious about the killing of the seven police officials who were murdered in two separate attacks in Orangi Town, Karachi, on April 20. Three of those who died were escorting a polio vaccination team; the other four were in a police mobile when they were gunned down. No vaccinators appear to have been killed in this instance and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan quickly claimed responsibility. These two attacks would have required intelligence gathering — where the teams were to be working — and setting up the logistics, weapons and motorbikes used in the attack as well as escape routes and safe houses for the killers. Such incidents are not random events, they are the product of days and perhaps weeks of work by those who set them up.
It is difficult to discern what motivates the perpetrators as the original conspiracy theories that underpinned the attacks have become diffuse and diluted over time. Do the attackers truly believe that polio vaccination is part of some global conspiracy by Americans and Zionists to somehow undermine or attack Islam? And if that were so, why has Saudi Arabia not been a target of their perverted ideology? Polio was eradicated there many years ago. And do they also believe that the world would somehow be a better place if polio were to return as the scourge it was in the 1960s and 70s; killing and crippling thousands every year?
Pakistan has stood on the brink of polio eradication in the recent past, but the obscurantists and extremists have prevailed, killing the brave vaccinators who work for a pittance as well as those who try to protect them, some of whom are not paid much better. A mindset is not something that can be vaccinated against, and it can be transmitted with ease from person to person, infecting entire communities such is the power of this pernicious perversion. The only effective countermeasure is the deployment of a sustained and universal narrative of sufficient power to overwhelm and eventually subsume the narrative that allows polio to exist in Pakistan. And is there any sign of that? There is not.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2016.
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