Pakistan has been blessed with a myriad of natural resources which, if exploited properly, can help us reemerge on the map of the world and can become a great source of foreign exchange for our worsening economy. Polio is one of them.

Rediscovered by Pakistan at a time when the world had almost forgotten about it, the virus was an endangered species that has not only been successfully saved from an impending extinction, but is being provided sanctuaries where it is freely reproducing. The population has been tested to have increased to a level where it is in no danger of eradication any longer. Pakistan was the first country in Asia and among a very few in the world to have achieved this feat.

But apart from these environmental benefits, Pakistan has also reaped economic benefit from this virus. Recently, international donors have promised billions of dollars to Pakistan to help end polio. Japan has promised to give Rs 550 million. This money will flow into our economy as foreign investment and will not only increase our foreign reserves but also ease the pressure on our economy resulting from rampant flight of capital. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has promised Rs 37 billion for the campaign against polio. But we need not be concerned. This donation is not conditional to us actually eradicating polio, and we will not be forced to stop using pirated versions of Microsoft software.

There is a need to ensure however that this money does not reach the pockets of the anti-polio workers. The government has done a commendable job not paying many of them for months. This strategy is expected to continue to work at least in the near future.

The government should not turn a blind eye to the gimmicks of these health workers who comprise the teams that administer polio drops to children in the various cities of Pakistan. Not only do they violate the concept of privacy of people’s homes, they are part of a much larger conspiracy against the country. According to statistics available publicly, the number of children infected by polio virus in Pakistan has increased, with an increase in the attacks on anti-polio workers. This points to a conspiracy that has all the signs of a foreign hand behind it. You cannot trust a group of people who are ready to die at the hands of terrorists for only Rs 250 a day.

The threats by these anti-polio workers that they will protest if they are not paid on time should not be taken seriously. They are too smart to gather at one place at one time, since they know such a move will only make it easier for the opponents to attack them all at once, instead of having to go after them two by two on motorcycles.

Amongst the most interesting threats Pakistan is facing for not eradicating polio are international travel restrictions. Currently, people are being given polio immunization before they leave the country. Such a service is not necessary. As we know, a large number of people leave Pakistan to serve other countries. These include some of the brightest minds in the country, such as university students, doctors, engineers and computer experts. If the international community will impose a travel ban on these Pakistanis, it will only hurt the countries they were going to serve. In Pakistan, these restrictions will resolve one of our most serious problems: brain drain.

As these doctors are held back, we will need them to work on various public health projects. Polio provides us with that opportunity by creating thousands of jobs for health professionals. As established earlier, these jobs do not require immediate release of salaries and will therefore not be a burden on the national exchequer.

Recently, liberal sections of the society have launched a campaign against polio. There is genuine fear that if they continue signing online petitions against polio and holding candle-lit vigils, the virus may begin to retreat because of its dwindling popularity among the general public. This must be avoided at all costs if Pakistan is to make the most of this rare natural resource.

The author has a degree in Poetics of Prophetic Discourse and works as a Senior Paradigm Officer. He can be contacted at harris@nyu.edu. Follow him on Twitter