Four polio workers were killed in Quetta on Wednesday. Gunmen on a motorcycle ambushed the workers in their truck, using handguns to kill the driver of the truck and three female workers sitting in the back of the vehicle. The Lady Health Workers association in Balochistan is now boycotting the polio campaign until adequate security can be provided. The assailants escaped and no group has claimed responsibility yet. Police have conducted raids in the area and detained several suspects who are now being interrogated.

The polio vaccination campaign was launched amid tight security in 11 districts of Balochistan earlier this month. Over 238,000 children below the age of five will be administered the polio vaccine if it is allowed to go ahead. Balochistan had been polio free for more than two years, but now at least 10 cases of polio have been reported from Quetta, Killa Abdullah and Zhob districts of Balochistan this year. Killing vaccination-staff essentially amounts to breaking the bones of one’s own children. In this day and age, the vaccine should have been a non-issue, a harmless medical necessity for a 100% curable disease. The current predicament shows a complete failure of the police to provide security, of the state to reel in this myopia that is spreading, and of parents to care for their children.

Militant groups attack polio teams as they see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage. However killings have been so frequent that it seems like it has just become custom to shoot on sight. There are also old and false rumours about polio drops causing infertility. Unlike other acts of terrorism which may have some direct or indirect objective behind them, attacking polio teams and preventing vaccinations actually serves no real purpose other than spreading anarchy and insecurity.

It is easy to twist getting vaccinations as something that is “un-Islamic,” thereby making it very easy to play on public sentiment. If it were really about some twisted “principled” stance against vaccinations, then merely refusing the vaccinations ought to have been enough. After all, nobody is forcing anybody to take these vaccinations at gun-point. The killings are intended to spread terror, to hit out at the system, and at the security and health of the youngest children at a fundamental level. It is analogous with the diseases of fundamentalism, corruption and violence crippling this country without effort at control, all the while sacrificing the lives of people doing good work.