Just the other day in Peshawar, in yet another grisly attack, a team of polio workers came under attack and along with it the policemen assigned to guard them. One policeman was killed while another was seriously wounded.

Attacks on polio workers have become dangerously frequent, and so security measures are being ratcheted up but these are only accentuating the uselessness of doing that. Now whenever a team ventures into the field, a security escort is with them, which sadly in most cases comes about to just one constable or two hanging around a team of nurses or volunteers who are at times school teachers. It should come as no surprise that they fail to deter the cut-throat militants from opening fire and killing them then and there. But even in cases where apparently ample security is provided, attacks happen. Instances where police patrols accompanying the health workers, have themselves come under fatal attack, are not unheard of.

When the state is up against something that is as sinister an endemic as polio itself, it ought not to rub ointment where nothing short of an operation will do. Religious extremism is not going to go away by just glossing over it with a false sense of security or with half-baked measures such as providing police mobiles to polio workers; or for that matter in KPK where the health minister has floated the incomprehensible idea of letting doctors carry firearms so that they could stave off kidnappers, who seem to be too impregnable for the hand of law to ever get to them. Can a doctor repel an attack when the policemen and army personnel themselves are often caught unawares? Certainly not! And secondly, the impact it would leave on the doctors themselves will be truly horrific; will hospitals look like places of comfort when the doctors will be flaunting guns. At places, the Young Doctors Association (with their newfound street power) is already clamouring to be issued with arms licences just so that it can tackle hostile patients.

These measures only demonstrate how the state is incapable of doing what it should be doing: providing the bare essentials of safety and security to its citizens. Will one day, the state ask all its citizens, say, every ID card holder, to have a firearm tucked under the belt owing to growing terrorism.

So long as the terrorists and the creed that gives birth to them in the first place are thought of as something to fall back on during hard times, there is neither any hope for polio workers nor the ordinary Pakistani.