Vulnerable polio workers

Attacks on polio teams in the country have intermittently been occurring since the early years of this century

September 21, 2021

The killing of three policemen guarding polio workers in August and September in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has once again raised concerns about the safety of health workers and those providing them security. The targeted killings are apparently aimed at derailing the endeavours being made by the government to eradicate the crippling disease from the country. However, as things stand now, the recent uptick in attacks on polio teams might be part of the hybrid war, about which the authorities have regularly been warning. A two-pronged strategy seems to be part of such attacks. One, to instill fear in health workers and the police force; two, to cause panic among the masses and also to tarnish the image of Pakistan.

Attacks on polio teams in the country have intermittently been occurring since the early years of this century. For a long time, observers have been attributing these attacks to militant groups who are reportedly opposed to administration of polio drops as they see polio vaccines and other measures, aimed at the improvement of human health, part of a conspiracy to harm Muslims. The community, as a whole, has rejected this toxic view. So there is the need to keep all aspects of the issue in view while investigating the attacks on health workers and security personnel.

On Sunday, a policeman accompanying a team of polio workers was shot dead in Kohat district. In August, one cop had been gunned down in Peshawar and another in Dera Ismail Khan. So far no militant organisation has claimed responsibility for these attacks. Brave polio workers and security personnel have remained undeterred in the face of the repeated attacks. Anti-polio campaigns have been continuing, including the ongoing one. Our health services personnel and security forces have foiled conspiracies against the country. The fight against polio should go on as Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world where polio is still being reported.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2021.

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