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Heavy ransom paid for doctor’s release

November 29, 2012

Dr Saeed Ahmed Khan was abducted on October 16 by unidentified armed men from Quetta’s Sariab Road.— Photo by INP

QUETTA: A renowned eye specialist, kidnapped 43 days ago, has been freed after payment of a heavy ransom.

Dr Saeed Khan, medical superintendent of the LRBT Memorial Hospital, Quetta, said the kidnappers had dropped him on Sariab Road late on Tuesday night.

His release raised hopes that a strike by hospital doctors across the province would come to an end, but subsequent developments dampened the optimism. The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) announced that the strike would continue till the government accepted their demands.

Dr Khan was kidnapped from Sariab Road on Oct 16 when he was going home from the hospital. Gunmen intercepted his vehicle, forced him to board their vehicle and drove him away.

Talking to reporters at his residence in Shehbaz Town, he confirmed that ransom had been paid to get him freed.

He said he had been kept blindfolded (in a room) probably in a mountainous area. Dr Khan’s family is reported to have paid Rs8 million in ransom to the kidnappers. Initially, the kidnappers had demanded Rs50 million, sources said.

Dr Khan expressed sorrow over the closure of the LRBT hospital since his kidnapping and said on an average 30 patients underwent surgery there every day. Besides, several others were examined free of cost.

He said he would continue to serve poor people of Balochistan.

He thanked the PMA and doctors for their protests against his kidnapping, but said emergency and other wards in government hospitals should remain open even during a protest because their closure caused severe hardships to poor patients.

He regretted that doctors protesting against targeted killing and kidnapping of their colleagues were being dealt with harshly by the government.

“Nowhere in the world doctors face the menace of targeted killing and kidnapping for ransom as in Balochistan. But, the government is taking severe measures to quell their protest,” he said.

Meanwhile, the PMA decided at a meeting held after Dr Khan’s release to continue the strike at government hospitals in protest against suspension of over 73 doctors, including six professors, and notices issued to them to evacuate their government residences for demonstrating in the red zone.

“We have decided to continue our strike. However, talks are under way with the government through a third party on the withdrawal of the suspension orders and an FIR registered against the protesting doctors,” Dr Sultan Tareen, the president of the Balochistan chapter of the PMA, said.

He called upon the government to provide protection to doctors.

Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani visited Dr Khan at his residence and remained with him for some time.

He said kidnapping for ransom was a violation of traditions, customs and values of the province and vowed to bring the culprits to book.

However, the chief minister termed the doctors’ strike illegal and asked whether Dr Khan had been released because of their strike.

“The doctors had the right to protest against the kidnapping but they should not have closed the emergency and other wards.”

He said that protesting doctors had ignored patients’ suffering.

He appreciated the role of the LRBT hospital for serving poor patients.

Provincial ministers Mir Asim Kurd, Sardar Aslam Bizenjo, Ali Madad Jatak, Mir Zahoor Buledi, Mir Shahnawaz Marri and Zamarak Piralizai were present on this occasion.

In a related development, a local court has stopped the authorities from evacuating the residences of the 73 doctors. Sources in the PMA told Dawn that the court had issued a stay order in this regard.