By Zia Ur Rehman
KARACHI — Karachi’s doctors are the latest target of assassins.
Imran Wasi, who was slain January 20, was the 10th doctor killed in Karachi since May 2010.
Medics, like many other elements of the population, have suffered as the violence afflicting Karachi grew in 2010. More than 1,200 people, including nine doctors, were killed in the city in 2010, compared to 801 in 2009, according to a report of the Citizen Police Liaison Committee.
Banned terrorist organisations including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Muhammad (SMP) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), as well as extortion mafias, are primarily responsibile for the doctors’ deaths, a senior police official who runs an anti-extremism unit told Central Asia Online.
The Sindh government is preparing to pass a health commission bill to protect doctors in the form of an ordinance, a government official hinted. The bill will be tabled in the next assembly session, the date of which is still unconfirmed.
“Dr.Wasi, an ENT (ear-nose-throat) specialist, is the 10th doctor who has been targeted in the fresh wave of violence since May 2010, and doctors are scared owing to killings, threats and demands of ransom,” Dr. Samrina Hashmi, a leader of the Karachi chapter of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), told Central Asia Online.
Healthcare workers protested latest slaying
Doctors and paramedics wearing black armbands protested Wasi’s slaying, and out-patient departments (OPDs) closed for a day, but doctors still provided emergency services.
The protesters expressed concern over growing security threats to doctors, especially threats from extortionists and sectarian outfits, and asked the government to protect medical professionals.
Wasi, 55, was heading to his clinic in the Ranchore line area when two armed motorcyclists shot him, an officer at the local police station said. His killers intended to target an Urdu-speaking doctor, his family said.
Two doctors had received threats and were asked to pay ransom to save their own lives two days before Wasi’s murder, Hashmi said.
In an effort to end the OPD boycott, Karachi police chief Fayyaz Leghari formed a special committee including Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Karachi South Iqbal Mehmood and two senior police officers. The committee asked doctors to contact them if they received threats or needed protection.
Doctors have fled Pakistan out of safety concerns
Police classified eight of the 10 slayings since May 2010 as sectarian.
Thousands of doctors have left Pakistan in recent years because of growing danger.Thousands of doctors have left Pakistan in recent years because of growing danger, while 2,800 doctors from Karachi have received “Good Standing Certificates,” which are required for jobs abroad, from the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), Hashmi added.
Neither the government nor PMA has an official figure for the number of doctors who work in Pakistan or who have left, but about 6,000 doctors have fled abroad in the last 15 years because of security concerns, Hashmi told Central Asia Online.
Another 50 medical professionals have gone into hiding in Karachi after closing their clinics and quitting their jobs at hospitals since the beginning of this year, Central Asia Online has learned.
Police classified eight of the 10 slayings since May 2010 as sectarian.Police classified eight of the 10 slayings since May 2010 as sectarian, and most of the victims have been Shia Muslims, Hashmi told Central Asia Online. The LeJ kills Shia doctors and the Mehdi Force (MF) kills Sunni doctors, she added.
Recently, Sindh Police’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) broke up a key MF network allegedly involved in at least 12 sectarian targeted killings, including those of three doctors.
“The MF, which operated under the umbrella of the banned SMP, mainly targeted people, especially doctors, who were sympathisers of (the opposing) sect,” an SIU officer told Central Asia Online. The SIU arrested eight alleged MF hardcore militants, including suspected mastermind Tanveer Abbas, January 2.
The Sindh Assembly should emulate the Punjab Assembly and pass a bill making violence against on-duty doctors punishable by one year’s imprisonment or a minimum fine of Rs. 500,000 or both, Dr. Idress Adhi, president of the PMA told Central Asia Online.
Sindh Provincial Health Minister Dr. Sagheer Ahmed called for a concrete strategy to curb violence against doctors.
“Targeted killings of doctors on sectarian grounds are a conspiracy … aimed at creating fear amongst the doctors’ fraternity,” Ahmed said.