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EditorialUnending war against Polio 

Unending war against Polio 

In a heinous incident, two police officials guarding polio workers were killed by unidentified assailants in North Waziristan, a hot spot of polio cases. This year, 11 cases of Polio have been reported in the country and all were found in North Waziristan. The attack has raised concerns about the security situation in the country. The nature of the attacks shows that the militants have once again assailed the police personnel to propagate their misplaced agenda. It also shows that the extremists’ movement against polio vaccinations has still not been thwarted. In the past, several health workers and policemen have been killed in the line of duty. While the state’s commitment to fighting polio is encouraging, it is not enough to just initiate vaccination drives without any security plan. This case is a reflection of the neglect demonstrated by the authorities concerned. Why did the policemen escorting polio workers perform duty so casually? Who will provide protection to the police if they cannot even protect themselves? Why were the attackers able to kill more policemen as they fled the scene?

It is high time to have a proactive response against all such evil-minded forces. Such heinous acts would not allow Pakistan to become a Polio free-state. The killing of policemen shows the capacity of those behind them. These terrorists still have to ability to strike at will. This incident reflects that our intelligence agencies have become complacent. The police need a lot of advanced training when so much is going on and polio workers and policemen are being killed. However, the attack on polio workers and policemen should not weaken the government’s resolve to rid the country of this crippling disease and save the future of our children. The concerned authorities need to come up with a proper security plan before the launch of each anti-polio drive, especially in risk-prone areas.

Aside from attacking and killing vaccinators, the extremist propaganda that the polio vaccine is a western conspiracy against the Muslim world that will render those who are vaccinated infertile is preventing some parents from allowing their children to be vaccinated. This narrative has taken hold in certain communities because there is not a strong enough counter-narrative to educate people about the fact that the polio vaccine saves lives and does not have adverse effects on the health of the recipients. Pakistan is only the second country in the world where new cases of polio still arise. The government and people from all walks of life must do their part in the war against polio. It is time for Pakistan to take a firm stand against this debilitating disease and all those who wish to derail the efforts to eradicate it. The fatal attack on polio campaigners in North Waziristan is a grim reflection of the fact that this poisoned mindset has alarmingly penetrated into the very fabric of Pakistani society. The government is urgently required to exploit all possible forums ranging from media campaigns to community-based social mobilisation in order to bring awareness amongst illiterate folk living in tribal areas. It should be inculcated in their minds that polio drops are aimed at protecting their children from lifelong paralysis and have nothing to do with infertility or sterilisation.

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