Doctors walk with AK-47s


When Pakistani doctor Mehmood Jafri gets ready for work in the morning, the first thing he does is put his AK-47 in the car.

Then, after briefing the armed guards at his home, he sets off for the hospital where he works in the troubled northwestern city of Peshawar with his most trusted relative beside him as an escort.

After surviving one murder attempt and one kidnap bid, Jafri takes no chances with his personal safety.

He is one of hundreds of Peshawar doctors living with the daily threat of being killed or abducted for ransom by Taliban militants or criminal gangs.

The doctors’ association in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital, estimate that in the past three years around a dozen doctors have been killed and more than 30 kidnapped, while up to 3,000 have fled in search of a peaceful life elsewhere.

Guns have become as important as stethoscopes at clinics and guards watch over doctors’ homes.

Doctors are seen as relatively easy targets in Pakistan. They are well paid, but often lack the protection of influential connections that wealthy businessmen might enjoy.

“I was lucky that I survived two attempts because I sensed the threats moments before they tried to attack me and I escaped,” Jafri told AFP as he finished surgery at Peshawar’s main hospital.

“Many other colleagues were not so lucky and they were either shot dead or kidnapped.”

Provincial health minister Shehram Khan Tarakai confirmed the kidnapping of 30 doctors and the killing of “a couple”.

The problem is not confined to the northwest — the medics’ association in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, says 20 doctors have been killed in targeted attempts in the past 14 months while 10 have been kidnapped in two years.

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