KARACHI: In a dramatic incident, a large contingent of ‘unidentified’ police personnel stormed Abbasi Shaheed Hospital late Tuesday night, encircled the healthcare facility and carried out a search operation, for reasons not yet known. As the operation continued, roads leading to the hospital were blocked by mobile vans and police officials, wearing masks, were deployed at nearby locations.
The next day, on Wednesday, Medical and Health Services Medical Director Dr Salma Kausar informed the media at a press conference that three men, including the hospital's PRO were arrested by policemen who had their faces covered and hence, couldn't be identified.
Sources at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital have revealed on condition of anonymity that police officials reached the facility in more than 20 mobile vans and motorcycles and forcefully entered one of the doctor's apartment. They rampaged through Dr Azhar's apartment, scattered his belongings and created a mess, the sources said. They also claimed that the police personnel pressed Azhar and another doctor, Danish, for information, threatening them with taking them away in mobile vans if they didn't divulge the required information.
Reportedly, police also searched the trauma centre and other rooms at the health facility and beat ward boys and sweepers. It has also been claimed that they beat a city warden.
Punjab health minister announces Rs6.5b for allied hospitals in Rawalpindi
Laptops, computer hard drives and other items kept in the healthcare facility's IT department, situated in the hospital's old building, were smashed and broken during the raid, as officials took various files and documents into custody, the hospital sources said.
The officials who conducted the raid not only had their faces covered but they had also taped the number plates on the vehicles, the hospital sources have revealed. They also concealed the name of the police station at which they are deployed and code numbers, the sources said.
On the other hand, while Dr Kausar has confirmed the raid by "unidentified police officials" at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, she said that the officials arrived in a Vigo car and not the standard police mobile vans.
However, she corroborated that police personnel rampaged through various sections of the hospital, including the IT department. The officials took away laptops, hard drives, DVRs and others documents, kept in the facility's IT department, she said.
Meanwhile, a city warden, on condition of anonymity has also verified the claims of the hospital staff and said that police had "brutally beaten and abused the staff, pressing them for information." He demanded that Sindh Police Inspector-General (IG) and Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar take notice of the incident.
As informed by Dr Kausar during the press conference, three persons were arrested during the raid, including Arshad Hashmat, Shaikh Rashid Hussain and Aslam Parvez. According to hospital sources, police had covered the faces of the arrested persons and claimed that they have been taken to an unknown location.
Speaking in this regard, Dr Kausar said that one of the arrested persons, Parvez has returned while the other two are still missing. However, Parvez hasn't provided any information pertaining to the arrest or the whereabouts of Arshad and Hussain, she said.
Dr Kausar said that families of the missing people, who have been arrested, are worried about their well-being and expressed ignorance when asked about the reason for the arrest.
Medical board recommends shifting Abbasi to hospital after health deteriorates
She moved the Sindh IG and other relevant authorities to take measures for locating the missing persons.
"We will not extend any support to them if they are found to be involved in any crime and would have ourselves handed them over to the police had the officials asked us," she said.
According to Dr Kausar, the incident has harmed the reputation of the hospital and its operations have been disrupted. All the cameras and surveillance systems at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital are non-functional as of now, she said, adding that the raid had disturbed the patients as well. Moreover, hospital's staff has also refused to perform their duties, she informed the media.
Expressing disapproval of the incident, Dr Kausar said that law-enforcement agencies should approach the hospital administration if they need any information.
She said, "We have prepared a report about the incident and have also sent a letter to Sindh IG, informing him of the incident," adding that Abbasi Shaheed Hospital's medical superintendent too has informed Karachi mayor and DC of the raid.
Meanwhile, Karachi mayor too expressed anger over the incident and said that "damage caused to the hospital's equipment by the police is condemnable." He said that there is a proper procedure for arresting suspects and accused and questioned police's intentions behind damaging the hospital's property and beating its staff.
Akhtar said that police had also beaten a city warden and that the law department has been asked to write a letter to Sindh IG, informing him about the raid and the misconduct of the police. He further said that he had also called the provincial home secretary and Sindh IG to discuss the issue but neither of them received his call.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2019.