On Saturday, two separate teams were attacked in what is becoming an intensifying campaign targeting the polio drive, and the government has been failing to stop this from spiralling out of control. Three polio workers and two volunteers went missing in Balochistan’s Zhob district on Friday, presumably kidnapped by militants. Meanwhile, in Landi Kotal’s Lowi Shalman area of Khyber Agency, gunmen open fire on a vehicle carrying a polio team, killing the driver and injuring one health worker. Over the past several months, attacks against polio teams are becoming much more numerous; already 6 have taken place in 2015. The attacks have taken place in urban centres like Karachi and Peshawar as well as smaller rural settlements all over Pakistan, showing that this is a co-ordinated campaign by the Taliban high command, and that as well as sporadic bombings, this is the chosen method of reprisal against the military.

The government needs to start treating the protection of polio teams as part of the national agenda against terrorism, and not as an ancillary project undertaken by the health ministry. In all the attacks in 2015, the lack of resources and police incompetence has largely been to blame. In Orangi, a single trainee was stationed as the escort, and in the Nazimabad attack the policeman lacked basic protective gear; in this case a helmet. The government is approaching these attacks reactively; tightening security where the attacks happened and giving Rs 500,000 to the family of the deceased. By acting pro-actively they can prevent these deaths and utilise the compensation money elsewhere. Instead of providing endless security protocol to every politician and minor official, they should divert funds where it truly matters – where the threat is imminent. If the government is truly motivated to implement the National Action Plan and eliminate terrorism, it must allocate a portion from that war chest to protecting polio teams against Taliban reprisal.