A blast in Mohmand agency killed two polio workers and injured one more on Wednesday, the third day of Eid. No terrorist organisation has claimed responsibility for the attack as of yet, which is why it is still uncertain whether the polio workers were the ones being targeted. But even if no one has owned up to the attack, the bomb’s close proximity to the house of the workers tell us that this was no coincidence.
Over 60 polio workers have been killed since 2012, and this does not include the tally of those that died protecting the workers in similar attacks over the past two years. The highest number of refusals to vaccinate have come from the agencies that connect to the Durand Line, as do most of the attacks on polio workers. Statistics alone tell us that if an effective immunization campaign is to be carried out, it must be largely focused in the tribal agencies, or the spread of the disease will continue unmitigated.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb brought about an increased movement of unvaccinated people from North Waziristan to the rest of the country, which means that the last three months of the year are likely to see another flurry of cases reported. The militants have been carrying out a war against polio vaccination, and the government’s inability to protect workers and fight the narrative against the vaccine has made Pakistan an 80 percent contributor of polio in the world. The year’s total is at an all-time high in 14 years, and this upward trend does not look to be going in a different direction anytime soon. Pakistan would do well to look at India, which became a polio-free nation at the end of 2013, even though they had over 700 cases as recently as 2009. The only way we can rid ourselves of the disease is if the protection of polio workers is made top priority, treating it as a part of the fight against militants. This is terrorism, pure and simple. The safety of polio workers cannot be stressed enough, and it is a dismal failure of state and intelligence agencies, that they are still being systematically targeted and brutally killed.