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Balochistan: Where doctors disappear

Updated Jul 27, 2013 02:58pm
Dr. Nasrullah's daughters, Mapara and Shapara. — Photos provided by author.
Dr. Nasrullah's daughters, Mapara and Shapara. — Photos provided by author.
“I want my father, I appeal to the government to do something for his recovery,” Rohail Khan, the son of the kidnapped Dr. Anwar Shabozai demands.  — Photos provided by author.
“I want my father, I appeal to the government to do something for his recovery,” Rohail Khan, the son of the kidnapped Dr. Anwar Shabozai demands. — Photos provided by author.
Mapara speaks about her family's ordeal to DawnNews.  — Photos provided by author.
Mapara speaks about her family's ordeal to DawnNews. — Photos provided by author.

Armed militants picked up Dr. Nasrullah and four other doctors and paramedics from Balochistan’s Killa Saifullah district on June 12.

Since then, nobody has any idea where they are.

Dressed in a traditional Pashto shalwar kameez, Dr. Nasrullah’s 12-year-old daughter Mapara broke down while narrating the ordeal of her grief-stricken family.

“There is mourning all the time at our house,” Mapara told Dawn.com after participating in a protest organised by doctors against the kidnapping. The child has traveled more than 100 kilometres from her hometown Loralai to Quetta, to be a part of a movement organised by doctors for the recovery of kidnapped doctors – an increasingly common phenomenon in the troubled province.

“Our eyes are always turned to the gate, waiting for our father to arrive,” Mapara says quietly.

So far, though, little progress has been made despite the continuous protests. For more than 40 days, the families of the abducted medical professionals from Killa Saifullah have been trying to make their voice heard. They have protested outside press clubs, they have protested outside the offices of senior government officials.

The government claims to have launched a search operation in different parts of Zhob, which borders a volatile tribal belt. However, the authorities appear to be clueless about where Nasrullah and the other doctors are.

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has also launched a protest movement to press the authorities to ensure the safe recovery of the missing doctors. “We will intensify our protest, if the doctors are not recovered,” Dr. Sultan Tareen, the PMA Balochistan President, told protesting doctors in an emotional speech.

Mapara is not the only child who will do anything for the recovery of her father. Many of the abducted doctors’ children have left their schools and come to Quetta to participate in the struggle for the recovery of their loved ones.

“I want my father, I appeal to the government to do something for his recovery,” Rohail Khan, the son of the kidnapped Dr. Anwar Shabozai demands.

The federal government, meanwhile, seems unaware of the abductions that are taking place with complete impunity. The provincial government, on the other hand, continue to pay lip service to the families of the victims. A senior Frontier Corps (FC) officer told Zhob-based reporters that the doctors has been set free. The officer said seven kidnappers were also apprehended by forces during the operation.

What takes away from the credibility of this statement is that at the same time, the Islamabad Police’s Crime Unit was calling media offices to take credit for cooperating with FC personnel in recovering the kidnapped doctors.

Meanwhile, while such statements were being thrown to the media, the doctors remain missing.

The irresponsible statements resulted in false hope for Dr. Nasrullah’s family. “There was jubilation in our house when we came to know through the media that my father was recovered,” says Mapara.

The excitement did not last long.

While the rest of the country gets ready to celebrate Eid, Dr. Nasrullah’s family has little to look forward to.

“We haven’t bought clothes or anything else for Eid,” his 12-year-old says, explaining that that was her father’s traditional job – to purchase clothes and household items for Eid celebrations.

Kidnapping for ransom has become an attractive source of income for gangs that operate blatantly in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan. Armed militants have previously kidnapped well-known psychiatrist Dr. Ghulam Rasool, eye specialist Dr. Saeed Khan and other doctors from Quetta. They were only released after hefty ransoms were paid.

Balochistan Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch has spoken often about how the provincial government plans to end targeted killings, kidnapping for ransom, and terrorist attacks. So far, these incidents have continued unabated since the new administration came to power.