Doctors fleeing Pak due to fears of extortion, target killings

Medical professionals are fleeing Pakistan due to threats by extortionists.

Karachi: Medical professionals, including top doctors, are fleeing Pakistan or have gone underground due to threats by extortionists, even as 10 medics have been killed in target killings in recent months in Karachi.

According to a report, around 50 medical professionals have gone into hiding after getting chits or phone calls from extortionists who have threatened to kill them if they didn`t comply.

The fears in the medical community are genuine because since May last year 10 doctors have been killed in target killings. In Karachi, since 2000, at least 85 doctors have been gunned down in targeted attacks, usually carried out by two men on a motorcycle.

The Pakistan Medical Association said it had got reports of doctors closing down their clinics and fleeing some areas and some had even left jobs at state owned or private hospitals after getting threats from extortionists.

"It is not a very good situation for those belonging to the medical profession because doctors need security and peace of mind to work in their profession," Habib Soomro, a PMA official said.

Another official said there was also fear among the doctors because in recent times some killings had been attributed religious sectarian issues.

"They are 50 or more such doctors who fearing for their lives at the hands of gangsters are running from pillar to post for protection," Soomro said.

He said they were not willing to approach the police because of the non-cooperative attitude and because no one could guarantee their safety.

PMA president of Karachi chapter, Dr Idrees Edhi, said doctors were facing a big problem from extortionists. He said according to figures around 2,000 doctors had left the country in recent years and another 2,500 were seeking jobs abroad.

He said the Karachi police had appointed a senior official, SSP Khurrum Waris to deal with the doctors but so far nothing had been done.

Warsi said the doctors were exaggerating the figures and the police were willing to provide all assurances and security for the doctors but first they had to approach the law enforcement agencies first for assistance.