As many as 50 medical professionals have gone into hiding in Karachi after closing down their clinics or quitting their jobs at public and private hospitals since the beginning of this year due to fears for their lives after receiving threatening phone calls or “chits” from extortionists, The News has learnt.
Sources in medical associations and the doctors’ community said that in addition to these 50 or more doctors, over 2,000 had left the city in recent years while around 2,500 were also trying to leave the country due to the worsening law and order situation and threats from gangsters to pay extortion.
At least 10 doctors have been killed since May 2010 in Karachi, including Dr Imran Wasi, an ENT specialist, who was gunned down in Lyari last week, the sources said.
According to the sources, the doctors on the run had been running clinics in Kharadar, Lee Market, Lyari, Korangi, Malir, Bin Qsim Town and some other areas of the city and were threatened by different gangs of extortionists operating all over the city.
A few of these doctors contacted either the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) or the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) but none of them went to the police for protection. Even those who approached medical associations urged them not to disclose their names to the police.
A doctor from Kharadar, who closed down his clinic and left Karachi after he was threatened by gangsters to pay money or be ready to get killed, had told his friends in the PMA that before the killing of Dr Imran Wasi the gangsters had called him again and said a doctor would be killed in a couple of days and it would be a lesson for “you and others”.
“There are 50 or more such doctors, fearing for their lives at the hands of gangsters and running here and there for protection. They are not willing to approach the police or even us as nobody can guarantee them protection in this city,” said Habib-ur-Rehman Soomro, an office-bearer of PMA.
Dr Soomro said that he personally knew three or four doctors who had closed down their clinics and were moving from one place to another to protect their lives.
The figure was confirmed by PMA Karachi President Dr Idrees Edhi, who said that currently the biggest problem confronting the medical professionals in the city was from extortionists.
“It is quite possible that 50 or more doctors have closed their clinics or quit their jobs due to threats by extortionists. There are many such cases in my knowledge and there are others who are in contact with PIMA or the Private Hospitals and Clinics Association but they all do not want to mention their names to the media and police,” he said.
When asked how the police and law enforcement agencies could help such doctors if they were not willing to register their complaints, Dr Edhi said everybody in Karachi knows about the performance of the police and the protection they could offer to common citizens.
He said thousands of doctors had left Pakistan in recent years due to the poor law and order situation, while 2,500 doctors from Karachi alone had contacted the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) for “Good Standing Certificates” required for jobs abroad.
“The impact of these migrations is not being felt at the moment but if it continued, people will not find quality specialists and professionals in Karachi in the years to come,” he warned.
Dr Farooq Mamji, an office-bearer of the Private Hospitals and Clinics Association, also confirmed that a number of doctors had gone into hiding after abandoning their practice in the city but said that he knew only a few such cases, who approached their association.
“But it is quite possible the way doctors are being treated in this city, the kind of threats they are facing and the environment of fear in which they are doing their jobs,” he added.
However, SSP Khurram Waris, a focal person appointed by the Karachi police chief to remain in contact with doctors’ associations, said that the doctors were “exaggerating” the figures, as he was aware of only one such case.
“There could be a few more doctors who have gone into hiding due to threats from extortionists but this figure can’t be 50,” SSP Khurram Waris told The News when he was approached to get his version on the threats being extended to medical professionals in the city.
SSP Waris said that the Karachi police were willing to provide all kinds of assurances regarding the safety and protection of doctors but added that unless they let the police know of their issues, how could the police do anything for their protection.
He said that Karachi Police chief Fayyaz Leghari had constituted a high-level committee comprising DIG South with two SSPs to resolve security issues facing the medical professionals and added that the Karachi police had detected almost all the cases wherein doctors were targeted in the recent years.
Another senior police official, who requested anonymity, told The News that doctors were creating hype on the killing of one doctor as their associations had no other issue left to raise hue and cry in the city.