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KARACHI, July 2: Expressing solidarity with young doctors who have been on strike for over two weeks in Punjab and finally faced police action on Sunday, leaders of various medical bodies on Monday opposed deployment of army doctors in different hospitals of that province and urged the government to initiate negotiation with the protesting doctors’ representatives in the interest of patients.

Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) secretary, told a press conference on Monday that the Punjab government’s move to call in the army doctors was not a permanent solution to the ongoing tussle between itself and young doctors. He said the government should sympathetically consider the protesting doctors’ demands.

“If the two sides have reached a point of no-return or a deadlock-like situation, the PMA is ready to play its role in easing out the situation,” he said.

He said that the Punjab government should initiate talks with the protesting doctors and advised it not to be misled by ‘a set of bureaucrats’.

He demanded doctors be given a proper pay scale, promotion scheme and careers structure for which they had been struggling for many months.

“The Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) strike is not a new phenomenon but the PMA requests the doctors not to act against the interest of patients. At the same time, the Punjab government is advised not to resort to excesses against the doctors community and, instead, take up the issue very carefully and seriously, act immediately and accept all the demands put forward by the young doctors in the interest of patients, the profession and the public,” he said.

Another central PMA leader Dr S.M. Qaiser Sajjad said that the Sunday action against doctors in Punjab was nothing but a sad story of how the government mismanaged the things “It’s a failed government which has now acquired the support of the army now,” he remarked.

Karachi PMA secretary Dr Qazi Wasiq said that the government should not forget that doctors were already working in a compromised health sector situation. “False claims and propaganda to defame the doctors community will further jeopardize the entire healthcare system and cause another exodus of doctors from the country,” he warned.

Dr Abbas Shah, a leader of Sindh United Doctors Forum — a new body formed in the wake of the Sunday police action and the Punjab government’s attitude towards the issue — said that army doctors should support the agitating doctors and go back to their respective units.

He described the arrest of young doctors and their reported removal from medical assignments as ‘an unfortunate development’.

Dr Shah termed the police action and arrest of doctors from their rooms at the night hours ‘political terrorism’.

“We condemn the police action and give the Punjab government 48 hours to release the doctors. Otherwise, doctors across Sindh will also observe a strike,” he said.

Sindh PMA chief Dr Samrina Hashmi demanded an apology for the Punjab government for ordering the police action against young doctors, and deplored that the police did not spare even the female doctors in the action. She also demanded withdrawal of cases against the protesting doctors.

Dr Mujtaba Memon of the Doctors Welfare Association said that Sindh-based doctors fully supported the ‘victimised’ doctors of Punjab and demanded an equal treatment for all doctors in line with the existing services rules.

Dr Mohammad Ali Talho, Dr Nisar Ali Shah, Dr Nawaz Ali Mallah, Dr Shahid Qureshi and Dr Razzaq Sheikh also spoke at the UDF press conference.