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January 3, 2015

Threats from abroad terrorising doctors in Karachi


January 3, 2015

As many as 27 doctors including consultants of various public and private hospitals in Karachi have received extortion calls through emails and text messages on their phones and many of them have preferred either to take long leaves and move to other cities or close down their clinics temporarily, the office bearers of the Pakistan Medical Association said on Friday.
They said dozens of doctors had either shut down their private clinics or consultations at hospitals after receiving threats through emails or text messages while a large number of them were also approaching the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) for permissions and NOCs for applying to jobs abroad.
“Many doctors are receiving threats and extortion calls from South Africa while many calls are being made from Karachi,” said Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, the general secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association central chapter. “But we are only aware of 27 doctors who have come forward and told us about the threats they have received. There might be dozens more who would be paying money to extortionists without informing anybody.”
Dr Azhar deplored that doctors were no more ready to look towards law-enforcement agencies or the provincial and federal governments for their protection. “Seventeen doctors were killed last year in broad daylight in Karachi but no practical steps have been taken to ensure their protection,” he said.
He said doctors who have received threats have gone into hiding while many others were planning to go abroad. “If this situation continued, there will hardly be any consultant available in the city,” he said.
“All hospitals and clinics can be closed for indefinite period in the city at our call if we decide to protest against the killings and the failure of law-enforcement agencies in protecting lives and properties of health experts but the doctors aren’t ready at this moment to take their protest to the next level.”

year 2015 also began with the murder of Dr Ahsan Ali who was gunned down in Saeedabad in front of his own clinic.
Another senior doctor requesting anonymity, said he had received a call from an unknown number for extortion. Upon investigation, he said, he had found out that the call had originated from Afghanistan. Meanwhile, he revealed that a number of doctors were receiving threatening calls from South Africa and Karachi.
The doctor said that due to the unabated murders of doctors in the city, the medical fraternity had no trust and confidence in law-enforcement agencies since despite their assurances the killings continued and not a single man had been apprehended by the authorities involved in such incidents.
The existence of extortion threats from abroad was also confirmed by Ahmed Chinoy, he chief of Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), who said hundreds of doctors were receiving calls and emails from a man called “Mirza” demanding extortion money from them.
“This person has no base in Karachi and can't do anything against anyone in Karachi,” he said. “But he utilises the presence of insecurity and fear amongst health professionals and uses it to terrorise them and get them to pay extortion money.”
Chinoy urged doctors not to bow before the extortionists, especially this “Mirza”, and advised them to approach the or lodge their complaints with the CPLC.
On the other hand, a spokesman for Karachi police admitted that previously the issue of extortion threats to various segments of society had been significant, but the occurrences had reduced drastically since the Karachi operation.
He advised doctors to approach the police and assured them that the force will do its best to provide them protection.

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