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)
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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.


’Golden hand’: Meet the Pakistani artist who has spent a lifetime painting UAE royals

Updated 59 min 33 sec ago

’Golden hand’: Meet the Pakistani artist who has spent a lifetime painting UAE royals

  • Liaquat Ali Khan went to the United Arab Emirates as a daily wage laborer but acquired the reputation of a skillful artist
  • He has now returned to Pakistan and set up an art academy in his hometown of Kohat

KOHAT: Four decades ago, a man traveled from Kohat in northwestern Pakistan to the United Arab Emirates in search of a better life. He was part of a group of daily wage laborers, all of them from poor families and looking for better prospects.

But one thing set Liaquat Ali Khan apart: his passion for art, which would go on to change the course of his life.

“I went to watch a Pashto film in Abu Dhabi,” Khan, now 70, told Arab News at his office in Kohat, recalling his time in the UAE in the early eighties. “On stepping out of the cinema, I saw a man who was struggling to paint a billboard. I walked up to him and volunteered to help.”

As Khan painted, another man, a bank executive, observed him for a while and then walked up to him and struck a conversation. The man wanted to know if the painter could draw portraits. He said yes. A few days later, the banker took Khan to see his boss, who commissioned a portrait of UAE’s founding father and then ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to be unveiled on UAE’s national day. 

An undated photo of Liaquat Ali Khan, a Pakistani artist, seen posing in front of a portrait he made of UAE's founding father and then ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (Photo courtesy Liaquat Ali Khan)

That moment marked a new beginning for Khan, who had a degree in fine arts from the University of Peshawar but never thought he could have a career as an artist. But his first portrait landed him a job with the Abu Dhabi Municipality where he went on to work for 29 years.

“I adorned my canvas with UAE royals and painted over a thousand portraits,” said Khan whose work has been displayed in public parks and along major thoroughfares in Abu Dhabi ahead of the UAE national day, celebrated each year on December 2.

Emirati officials also bestowed on him the title of “golden hand” as his reputation as an artist spread.

Liaquat Ali Khan, a Pakistani artist, writes an Urdu inscription at his office in Kohat, Pakistan on December 1, 2020. (AN Photo)

“Over a period of time, officials and locals began to recognize me through my work and started calling me the golden hand,“Khan said. “But it was a huge portrait of Sheikh Zayed that captured the attention of the royal family.”

In 1999, he was invited to meet the UAE ruler himself. 

“He was clearly interested in the world of art and knew a lot about it,” Khan said. 

Ten years after his meeting with Al Nahyan, Khan returned to Pakistan — not an ‘easy decision,’ he said — where he began teaching art at Kohat University. He also set up an art academy in his native town, where 17 students, both boys and girls, are currently studying.

Students of Liaquat Ali Khan, a Pakistani artist, seen practicing calligraphy at his art academy in Kohat, Pakistan, on December 1, 2020. (AN Photo)

“Creativity and art have brought me closer to nature and I am focused more on them than ever before,” said Omar Shahid, a second-year medical student who took up drawing as a hobby and joined the academy about a year ago.

Today, Khan says he is proud of his journey. The walls of his office in the art academy are decorated with photographs and shields. Some of the photos capture his interactions with high-profile Pakistani personalities such as former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf and ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The artist said he had also completed a 500-piece portrait of Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and requested Musharraf to display it at Jinnah’s mausoleum. He smiled as he said he had no idea where that work had disappeared.

“He [Musharraf] agreed and instructed officials [to display the Jinnah portrait at his tomb],” Khan said. “But the painting has disappeared. It’s probably gathering dust in some government storage facility.”