Writing in the reputed medical journal The Lancet, Pakistan health minister Zafar Mirza has hit out at the Indian Medical Association (IMA) for its letter to the journal condemning its editorial on the shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir.
The British journal had last month written about “serious concerns for the health, safety, and freedoms of the Kashmiri people”.
In an article titled “Humanitarian crisis in Kashmir: don’t shoot the messenger”, Mirza, a former high-ranking official at the World Health Organisation — the article, in fact, carried his WHO email address — wrote: “The authors of this statement by the IMA, or at least the hundreds of thousands of doctors they represent, must not forget that when the medical profession becomes accomplice to nationalistic and ideological jingoism, the results for humanity are inevitably tragic, as evidenced by the holocaust in Europe not so long ago. I urge the IMA, or at least the individual doctors this body represents, to have the courage and moral imperative to retract this misguided and damaging statement against The Lancet and focus their attention on the suffering of the people they have taken an oath to protect.”
The civilised world, he maintained, “cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past”.
In its letter to The Lancet in the wake of the editorial on J&K, the IMA had stated that the article was tantamount to interference in India’s internal matters. It wrote: “It is unfortunate that the reputed medical journal The Lancet has committed breach of propriety in commenting over this political issue. It is amounting to interference into an internal matter of Union of India. The Lancet has no locus standi on the issue of Kashmir… The Lancet has reacted to an internal administrative decision of Government of India under the garb of concern for the health of Kashmiris.”
The Union government has maintained that health services in Kashmir have not been affected by the restrictions imposed on citizens since the August 5 decision to scrap special status to J&K under Article 370 and to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories.
In a press release, the J&K administration stated that data compiled by the Health and Medical Education Department for the month of August showed that 46,449 patients visited indoor patient departments (IPDs) in various government-run healthcare institutions, and doctors successfully performed 4,334 major and 44,236 minor surgeries in peripheral and tertiary care hospitals.
Borrowing heavily from some articles published in The Lancet and other international medical journals on the situation in Kashmir, and its effects on health services in the region, Mirza wrote: “Such knee-jerk reactions have become the norm in today’s polarised world, but an open letter by an august body, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), which attacks The Lancet for its credibility and calls the Editorial’s intentions malafide, causes me great concern as a member of the medical fraternity. The current plight of Kashmiris being denied access to essential health care and living under great duress with no communication with the outside world was also highlighted in the BMJ.”