Edhi and Chhipa ambulances are usually busy ferrying the injured to Jinnah hospital. But on Wednesday, they became ‘casualties’ themselves.
Three staffers were injured in a brawl between the staff of the two paramedic services outside the busiest hospital in the city.
Mudasir Khan, an Edhi ambulance driver, picked up the body of a 10-year-old boy and five injured people from Future Morr, Landhi after a bus accident and reached Jinnah hospital. Around 2 pm, he tried entering the main entrance of the public hospital when a Chhipa ambulance blocked him, Khan told The Express Tribune. His shirt was soaked with blood.
According to him, he took a U-turn to try the other entrance. But again, he was intercepted by three Chhipa ambulances, two of which rammed into his vehicle – one from the side and one from behind.
The body was reportedly in the Edhi ambulance but on a stretcher that belonged to Chhipa, which is believed to be the reason behind the fight.
Shahid Farooqi, another Edhi paramedic who was injured, said that one of the Chhipa drivers had tried taking the body out of their ambulance.
The injured Mohammad Shafi, 20, said he was taken in an Edhi ambulance after the Landhi bus accident. He was hurt and he kept losing and gaining consciousness during the ride to the hospital and the fight, so he caught a few glimpses of men arguing and smashing windshields.
One of the injured men in the ambulance, 29-year-old Bakht Zameer said a Chhipa ambulance smashed into their vehicle from behind, causing everyone inside to fall out.
Edhi welfare official Anwar Kazmi said such an incident was not a first. “Chhipa drivers often do this with us.” He said that his driver Mudasir reached the accident site before the Chippa driver. The Edhi driver took the body and the injured men but the Chippa driver followed them. “He first tried to stop the Edhi ambulance near Qayyumabad by hitting it but Mudasir did not stop,” Kazmi alleged.
Later, Chhipa drivers intercepted the Edhi ambulance outside the hospital gate and snatched the body and shifted it into their ambulance, he said.
One more Edhi driver, Danish, was injured. Danish was trying to save his colleague when he was also attacked by the drivers, said Kazmi. “We had had enough. Our drivers were badly assaulted and that is why we have registered an FIR.”
One Chippa driver was also injured. “When people saw that an Edhi driver was being beaten up, they got angry and they started beating the Chhipa driver,” he said. “They didn’t even stop for the injured who were in the ambulance. They could have died.”
For their part, Chhipa ambulance drivers say the same thing, but they position themselves as the victim: they say that they were carrying a body and an Edhi ambulance accidently crashed into them, after which the fight ensued.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Chippa Welfare Association chief Ramzan Chhipa condemned the incident and said that all the allegations made by the Edhi staff were baseless. “Our staffers were beaten up quite badly,” he said. “When our driver was moving the injured from the accident site to the ambulance, Edhi volunteers snatched the body and the injured from us and went off.”
He alleged that a number of Edhi staffers arrived at the hospital and attacked the Chhipa volunteers with batons and iron rods. “Video footage will tell who was wrong and who was not. We do not believe in registering a case.”
Saddar SHO Shabbir Haider said the police have received a complaint against Chhipa staffers by the Edhi Foundation. He said the case would be registered after an initial inquiry.
A passerby outside Jinnah hospital told The Express Tribune that the ambulance staff have had many such quarrels, mostly for publicity’s sake.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2011.