Pakistan is one of three countries left in the world where polio remains endemic, the other two being neighboring Afghanistan, and Nigeria.
The number of polio cases in Pakistan has dropped from 25,000 16 years ago, to just over 40 cases this year. However, a Taliban ban on vaccinations and attacks on health workers mean that the highly infectious disease continues to spread.
Taliban attacks, stretching from Peshawar in the north to Karachi in the south, have killed dozens of health workers and their police escorts. As a result, some 260,000 children are still not vaccinated and the virus is spreading once again.
Taliban militants say immunizations are part of a Western anti-Muslim plot. The government is working with community and religious leaders to fight back against that belief.
In North Waziristan, dozens of children, many under the age of two, have been crippled by the viral disease in the past six months.
And there is evidence in tests conducted on sewage samples in some of the country’s major cities that the polio virus is starting to spread beyond these isolated pockets and could soon spark fresh polio outbreaks in more densely populated areas.
The Taliban ban and associated security threats mean the polio virus could easily escape and spread back into previously cleared areas.
Vaccinating children against polio that too voluntarily in an atmosphere as volatile as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) distinguishes polio health workers as people of character and courage, while their malevolent killers, failing to fathom the piety of their mission, stand out as enemies of humanity.
Talks might of course have been a better option than the bullet. But when the aggressors do not want to renounce violence, should we keep insisting on a non-existent dialogue?
There might be elements within the terrorists who could be persuaded to embrace peace, but there are also those who can only be dealt with through a battering.
How many lives should this country sacrifice before the government reaches the conclusion that enough is enough?
What is more pitiable is that the government has not been able to strengthen its intelligence and law enforcing system, either through new legislation or capacity building.
We are in dire need of a collaborative and coordinated intelligence system whereby all the law enforcement and intelligence agencies operating in the country pool their information and share it for a systematic and successful strike against the criminals.
What is keeping the government from taking all these pending but important decisions, is a million dollar question which, unless answered, will only add more strength to the rumor mills already working overtime, creating more confusion and doubts about the new setup.