QUETTA: The Quetta police baton-charged and arrested a huge number of protesting young doctors in Quetta Wednesday afternoon. The clash broke out when the demonstrators marched towards the red zone.
Young doctors and paramedics across Balochistan have been protesting for over four months now. Their demands are basic: better facilities, cheap medicines, and proper machinery at hospitals.
On January 12, when the doctors tried to enter the red zone, the police first stopped and then baton-charged them. Videos from the protest, available, show police officers beating up demonstrators with sticks.
In response, a number of protesters attacked the police too after which the officers dragged the men and pushed them into police vans. They have been taken to the Kharotabad and Cantt police stations.
The doctors, despite the chaos, have refused to budge and decided to stage a sit-in demanding their colleagues be immediately released.
Later, the assistant commissioner reached the protest site and started negotiations with the protesters.
According to a Dawn report. after they marched towards the city’s Red Zone where staging rallies and protest sit-ins is banned.
The doctors have demanded an improvement in the conditions of government hospitals, provision of medicines for patients as well as the installation of modern medical equipment.
They have also demanded security for doctors and paramedical staff and are against, what they call, the government’s attempt to privatise government healthcare facilities by introducing health cards.
Earlier today, members of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) Balochistan chapter, joined by paramedical and nursing staff associations, took out a rally from Sandeman Provincial Hospital towards Red Zone.
However, police stopped the protesters at Anscomb Road and a clash erupted between the two sides.
Talking to Dawn.com, SSP Operations Quetta Abdul Haq said that around 20 to 25 protesters had been taken into custody for violating law and order.
He said that the arrested doctors had been moved to a nearby police station and legal action would be initiated against them.
Haq said that Anscomb Road had been cordoned off due to the protest, adding that traffic police were diverting motorists to alternatives routes to prevent gridlocks.
Meanwhile, Dr Rahim Khan — a spokesperson for YDA Balochistan — said that at least 10 doctors had sustained injuries during the incident while more than 50 had been arrested.
He said that the doctors injured during the clash with police officials had been shifted to the Trauma and Emergency Centre of Civil Hospital Quetta.
The YDA has been protesting since last year against what it has called the government’s plan to privatise public hospitals under the guise of health cards.
In October, the association had boycotted outpatient departments at government hospitals and called the government’s move to introduce health cards a “conspiracy”.
In November, 19 people, including several doctors, were arrested for staging a protest sit-in and blocking roads linking the city’s Red Zone with its other areas. However, the FIR against them was later withdrawn by the Balochistan government.
Last month, the YDA had also warned that it would boycott emergency services in all government hospitals across the province if its demands were not accepted within 48 hours.