off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Kidnapping and target killing
of doctors in Baluchistan


Baluchistan is the least developed part of Pakistan which has been facing a serious law and order situation for the last many years. Apart from insurgency by some misguided youth, many internal and external enemies of Pakistan are also quite active here who do not want to see peace in this region. Some foreign countries are also alleged to be fighting a proxy war in this area with the result that peace remains a dream in an area which only few years ago was extremely peaceful.

First it was the non-locals who were made target, many lost their lives and others left the province but now it is the Hazzaras, Baloch as well as Pashtuns who are being targeted. The worst part of this is that a province which is already short of healthcare professionals particularly specialists in various disciplines of medicine has seen target killing and kidnapping of doctors which goes on and security agencies have failed to control it. This has lead to mass migration of specialists. The latest victim of kidnapping has been Prof. A. Munaf Tareen a noted cardiologist who was kidnapped about two months age and could not be recovered so far.
Pakistan Medical Association has started a hunger strike camp and token strike daily closing OPDs from 11.00 AM to 2.00 PM to draw the attention of the authorities which continues even after forty one days and the core committee of the PMA keeps on guiding and leading this peaceful agitation putting pressure on the government to accelerate efforts for the recovery of Dr. Munaf Tareen. According to the information which we have received, so far twenty six doctors have been kidnapped, some were recovered, and others got released by paying heavy ransom. These kidnappings took place not only in Quetta but in other cities as well like Loralai, Naseerabad, Sibi, Chaman and Khuzdar. Eighteen doctors became a victim of target killing in Quetta, Khuzdar, Chaman, Mastung, Pasni and Turbat. If this was not enough eighty eight doctors which includes twelve physicians, six surgeons, four cardiologists, three neurosurgeons, one gastroenterologist, one urologist, three dentists, three pathologists, eight anesthetists, three cardiac surgeons, four paediatricians, three ophthalmologists, one oncologist, two urologists, one paediatric surgeon and over forty General practitioners have left Baluchistan in the last few years because of this deteriorating law and order situation. All this has seriously affected not only medical education in Bolan Medical College but also healthcare delivery particularly specialized care. Unpredictable law and order situation in the province has also put a question mark on the possibility of holding conferences by various specialty organizations here which is yet another set back to provide Continuing Medical Education which is so important for continuous professional development of healthcare professionals in this province which needs it the most.
After the elections, when the new provincial government lead by Dr. Abdul Malik was installed, it was hoped that it will improve the situation. Though one can see a remarkable reduction in target killings, bomb blasts which took many precious lives but unfortunately kidnappings of doctors for ransom continues. Those indulging in such nefarious activities wish to demoralize the healthcare and other professionals to ensure that the public feels unsafe, thus severely affecting the development plans which in turn intensifies the campaign being carried by some insurgents who continue to challenge the writ of the State. Civil as well as Military authorities under the leadership of civilian government needs to act with a fast pace to check this menace of kidnappings. Public should also support these initiatives aimed at restoring law and order in the province so that progress and prosperity returns to this area. Peace and security is extremely important for any developmental activity.
The authorities will be well advised to take the leadership of the medical profession in general and PMA in particular into confidence to plan a strategy to ensure doctors safety so that they can serve with devotion and dedication. Every patriotic Pakistani must play its role at a time when the country is passing through the most difficult times in its history. People of Baluchistan are as patriotic as people in other parts of the country and every effort needs to be made to accelerate the pace of development throughout the province. Once the Gawadar Port becomes fully operational, it will also provide numerous development opportunities to the province, hence our first and foremost priority should be to ensure peace, talk and convince those who have taken up the arms, provide them ample opportunities to play their role in the progress and development of the province. Provincial Government headed by Dr.Abdul Malik and his colleagues are making sincere efforts and they need to be supported in this mission. It takes many years after graduation to become a specialist and if this trend of specialists in different disciplines of medicine leaving the province is not checked, it will have serious consequences for delivery of specialized healthcare. Let us hope and pray that the provincial government with the support of federal government succeeds in restoring peace and checking kidnapping for ransom. Bringing the culprits to book and awarding them exemplary punishment will also prove to be a deterrent for which appropriate measures should be taken.{jcomments on}

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