How Kidnapping Doctors Hurts the Patients

While Sunday’s kidnapping of Bolan Medical College (B.M.C.) associate professor Dr. Din Mohammad Baloch has triggered a fresh wave of insecurity among Balochistan’s doctors, the ensuing strike called by physicians across the province has caused enormous suffering for the common citizens. On Friday, almost all hospitals in Quetta did not admit patients for regular treatment. Only the emergency wards functioned while sick women and children were heard crying for help in futile attempts to gain medical attention.

Doctors went on a strike after the government’s failure to comply with an earlier demand that their colleague, who was kidnapped in Mastung district on July 22, should be recovered within 24 hours. Dr. Sultan Tareen, Balochistan president of the Pakistan Medical Association (P.M.A), had announced the ultimatum during a press conference at the Quetta Press Club on Thursday where he was also accompanied by Dr. Shahnaz Baloch, the B.M.C. Principal. Dr. Baloch’s is a case of kidnapping for ransom. The kidnappers initially asked for Rs. 50 million for his release but eventually agreed to bring down the demand to Rs. 8 million. Yet, the saga does not seem to end any time soon as there are no signs of willingness, or maybe the ability, on the part of the victim’s family to pay ransom to the kidnappers.

Three things should worry us about this kidnapping.

Firstly, it took place in the electoral constituency of Balochistan’s Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani. The P.M.A says it suspects some elements in the government are responsible for the kidnapping. The doctors are raising fingers at the government either for its alleged involvement in the kidnapping or for the “mild attitude” of authorities in terms of their lack of action against elements responsible for this event. Mustung has become the kidnapping and car-snatching capital of Balochistan. The district would not have turned into the hub of crimes if Mr. Raisani had taken personal ownership and responsibility of the issue in the first place.

Secondly, the kidnappers are demonstrating brazen bravery by using regular cell phones to communicate with the abducted doctor’s family. This indicates that the confidence level of criminals has significantly risen. In the past, criminals, insurgents and other groups used to use satellite phones to communicate with the media and other relevant people. Now, they are so much convinced of the police system’s weaknesses that they are fully confident that their whereabouts will not still be located even if they make phone calls via local cell phone connections. It shows an abysmal level of crime investigation mechanism available in Balochistan’s policing institutions. Granting so much space to criminals implicitly translates into inviting dire trouble for citizens.

Thirdly, Dr. Baloch’s kidnappers have reportedly asked the family to pay them the ransom in Jacobabad, a town in Sindh province bordering Balochistan. This shows that kidnappers and criminals in one province are also connected with their counterparts in other provinces of Pakistan. It is a pity that criminals from Balochistan are connected and facilitated by similar groups in the Sindh province but we see no signs of cooperation between the police forces in various provinces, including Balochistan. Once a kidnapped person is taken to another province, it becomes much more difficult to find their whereabouts in another province where one would require a totally different set of skills and expertise (such as knowledge of the local geography, language and demography) to access the safe houses of the criminals and secure the release of a kidnapped citizen.

These are extremely hot summer days in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan which coincide with Ramzan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Several patients, who were not attended at Quetta hospitals on Sunday fainted. There were large queues of sick and, worst of all, helpless people who were not being attended. Such strike calls are essential to draw the attention of the government but they come up with a heavy price for the ailing citizens. People in need of urgent medical assistance are very likely to go to less qualified doctors or those who apply traditional methods of treatment. Thus, the cost of this strike is too high which may lead to the death of many innocent people.

The government of Balochistan should expedite efforts to locate Dr. Din Mohammad Baloch and make sure that doctors are provided full protection. While the government endeavors to release Dr. Baloch, we strongly urge the government and public representatives to simultaneously continue discussions to explore options that will soften the terms and conditions of the ongoing strike. Common people should not be compelled to pay the price of criminals’ actions and government’s failures. (Courtesy: The Baloch Hal)


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