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KARACHI, March 23: While parts of the city have been in the grip of ethnic violence once again for the past many days, it is observed that the victims of targeted attacks as well as patients belonging to certain communities were usually not taken to the nearest government hospital.

The alarming trend where people with a certain ethnic background avoid some hospitals even if they are in a precarious condition has developed over the years, though it becomes noticeable during spates of ethnic killings and violence that the city often witnesses.

“Yes, there is a clear pattern that Pakhtun victims of targeted attacks are not taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for treatment; they even don't allow the bodies of targeted killing victims to be taken to the ASH,” said a senior official of the medico-legal section of the Sindh government on the condition of anonymity.

The official cited the recent killing of ANP general secretary of district west Advocate Mohammad Hanif Khan, saying that the victim was attacked in SITE's Metroville area but was taken all the way to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, where he was pronounced dead.

A senior doctor of the JPMC also confirmed the pattern, saying that the JPMC received patients, including those with gunshot wounds, from as far as central and west districts of the city.

“There have been several instances where the body of a targeted killing victim was shifted to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital mortuary but the heirs took away the body to another hospital,” charity workers said.

'Ambulance workers know' Senior official of the Edhi Foundation Anwer Kazmi also confirmed to that the trend had been in evidence for the past many years. He said people belonging to a certain community avoided going to some hospitals.

“Now even ambulance drivers have learnt as to which hospital the body of a victim from a certain ethnic background should be shifted,” Mr Kazmi said, adding that in case a friend or relative of the victim was present at the time of shifting the driver acted on their advice.

“Generally people belonging to the Pakhtun community go to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for treatment, while those belonging to the Urdu-speaking community by choice visit the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital,” he said.

Former President of the Pakistan Medical Association Dr Habibur Rehman Soomro confirmed the trend, saying that certain ethnic communities avoided visiting some hospitals.

“Everyone is witness to this alarming trend but no one is ready to point it out,” he said, citing the air of mistrust prevailing in the metropolis.

He said the practice was followed not only by the Pakhtun community, but also by people from other ethnic backgrounds. He explained that if there was a conflict going on between the Urdu-speaking and Sindhi-speaking people, the Sindhi-speaking people would avoid visiting certain hospitals.

The former PMA president said that the trend had been there for the past 10 to 15 years. He went on to say that certain private-sector hospitals were also following such a trend and were offering community-based services.

'Just an impression'

However, Sindh Health Minister Dr Saghir Ahmed dispelled the impression that Pakhtuns avoided going to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for treatment.

“A visit to the hospital would show you that the Pakhtuns are under treatment at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital,” he said. He added that if statistics from the police surgeon office were examined, they would also dispel this impression. “There may be an impression, but it's not true in reality,” he insisted.