Balochistan: Police clash with doctors protesting lack of virus protection gear

A police officer detains a doctor who along with others demonstrates against the lack of protective gears for medical staff who are treating coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients in Quetta, Pakistan April 6, 2020. (REUTERS)
Short Url
Updated 06 April 2020

Balochistan: Police clash with doctors protesting lack of virus protection gear

  • Doctors threatened to stop working unless the detained protesters were released
  • Those protesting don’t look after coronavirus patients, says Balochistan government spokesperson

QUETTA: Riot police wielding batons used force to break up a protest by Pakistani doctors and medical staff against a lack of gear to protect against coronavirus, arresting dozens of medics who say the government has failed to deliver promised supplies.
Reuters journalists at the scene, in the southwestern city of Quetta, saw hundreds of doctors and paramedics, some in face masks and scrubs, chanting their demands. Some were dragged off by riot police in helmets, armed with rifles and batons.
A senior police official said 30 protesters had been arrested for defying a ban on public gatherings imposed during a lockdown to fight the spread of the virus. Doctors threatened to stop working unless the detained protesters were released.
Pakistan has reported a total of 3,277 cases of the virus, including 50 deaths. At least 191 of these cases are in the vastly underdeveloped province of Balochistan, of which Quetta is the capital.
Dr. Abdul Rahim, a spokesman for the doctors’ association leading the protest, told reporters after the incident that the medics believed the failure to supply them with safety gear was putting them at risk.
“A dozen doctors have been infected while other medical staff is also suffering,” he said. He added that a number of doctors and paramedics had been injured in the baton charge.
Doctors in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad last month also threatened to boycott duties if not provided protective gear, which has been in short supply. The country’s disaster management authority has said it is being imported in batches.
A spokesman for the provincial government told Reuters hospitals in Quetta dealing with coronavirus had been provided protective gear, and the medics who were demonstrating were not those fighting the virus.
“The doctors protesting don’t look after coronavirus patients; we don’t understand their justification for protesting,” Balochistan government spokesman Liquat Shahwani said.
The doctors say they deal with hundreds of visiting patients daily who could be infected but are unaware and have not been referred to the hospitals and centers dealing with coronavirus. Medical workers who have so far been infected do not all work at such centers.
Global rights watchdog Amnesty International’s South Asia wing condemned the arrests in a statement on Twitter, terming it an attack on the doctors’ right to peaceful protest and an affront to the risks they face.


Pakistan plans to raise $1.5bln in Eurobonds, officials say

Updated 29 May 2020

Pakistan plans to raise $1.5bln in Eurobonds, officials say

  • The country’s central bank recently cut its policy rate drastically to cope with the coronavirus
  • The Pakistani economy is likely to contract -1% to -1.5% in the current financial year, according to the IMF

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to raise $1.5 billion through Eurobonds to bridge a balance of payments gap for the financial year beginning July 1, two government officials said on Friday.
With the country’s fiscal deficit likely to rise as high as 9.4% and a shortfall in revenues due to COVID-19 economic losses, Pakistan desperately needs funds to stave off balance of payment pressure caused by dwindling foreign reserves and a current account deficit.
“Pakistan plans to launch these bonds in next fiscal year. Exact dates and amount can’t be confirmed at the moment as it depends on market situation,” an official at the finance ministry told Reuters.
Another official at Pakistan’s ministry of economic affairs said Pakistan wants to raise an estimate $1.5 billion. Both officials requested anonymity.
The Pakistani economy is likely to contract -1% to -1.5% in the current financial year, which ends in just over a month, on June 30, according to the International Monetary Fund and the country’s finance ministry.
The plan is subject to approval from Pakistan’s cabinet. Its terms would be made public at launching.
In the current financial year, Pakistan attracted over $4.4 billion in carry-trade funds through government financial instruments, including treasury bills and bonds, offering rates as high as 13%.
Pakistan’s central bank recently cut its policy rate drastically to cope with the coronavirus. Over $4.1 billion has flowed out of government instruments to date as the effects of the global pandemic hit markets.
Pakistan is also expecting more multilateral and bilateral external inflows in next financial year, including the IMF, as well as debt relief from G20 countries.
Moody’s has placed Pakistan’s local and foreign currency long-term issuer B3 ratings under review for downgrade, citing a potential default on private sector debt.