The Polio outbreak is all thanks to the US. Or Osama Bin Laden. Or sheer stubbornness on the part of people who’d rather risk children having polio than fuel western imperialism. Talk about cutting off the nose to spite the face. The blame has been put in so many places that a policy for a solution is going to be hard to execute.

The US used a hepatitis vaccination program in Pakistan as a cover during the hunt for Bin Laden. This week the White House announced that the US will not use vaccination programs as a cover for spy operations. The agency also agreed to not use genetic materials obtained through such programs. But this is not without vocal resistance. Michael Scheur, a former CIA spy told the BBC intelligence services that that they should be allowed to do so if it saves US lives. When asked if this should be at the cost of thousands of deaths, he gave the ridiculous statement, “Well, you know, stuff happens, Sir.” However, Scheur also said that children get polio less because of the US and more because of religious beliefs and political outrage. And well, he is right. Our children getting polio and our people having travel restrictions slapped on them hurts the US in no way. Sure, the CIA ban is a good development and we’d all like the US to stop putting its foot into our business for its own gains. But it is also easy to blame the US. The problem of vaccinations being refused has been our own for decades. People have ill-informed perceptions, that the vaccine is not “halal”, or that the vaccinations are a plot to limit birth rates, or that they are a Western plot to achieve something dark and twisted. Health workers still face the risk of being killed or kidnapped in the tribal areas. This is a national problem and needs a proactive role by the government and community leaders. Additionally, ulemas need to stop giving out fatwas against vaccinations and leave health care to the professionals.

The minister for national health services is to attend the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva this week. The polio situation has become an international embarrassment and Pakistan will have to assure the WHO it is committed to polio eradication. Not just for the future of its children but for the travelling restrictions Pakistanis may now face.