Pakistan police clash with doctors protesting lack of coronavirus protection gear

Police arrest doctors demanding facilities and prevention kits to attend coronavirus patients in Quetta, Pakistan on Monday, April 6, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 06 April 2020

Pakistan police clash with doctors protesting lack of coronavirus protection gear

  • Protesters had been arrested for defying a ban on public gatherings imposed during a lockdown
  • Medics believe the failure to supply them with safety gear was putting them at risk

QUETTA, Pakistan: 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.

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Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

Updated 21 min 39 sec ago

Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

  • Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018
  • Though Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s attorney general said Friday that two men had confessed to killing a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group as part of a plot to topple Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018.
His shooting death last week sparked days of protests and ethnic violence that killed 239 people, according to police figures.
“The assassination was intended to be a cover to take power from the incumbent by force,” attorney general Abebech Abbebe said in a statement Friday aired on state television, without providing details.
Though Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office, a complaint echoed by many protesters last week.
Abebech said that along with the two men who have allegedly confessed to the crime, the government has identified a third suspect who remains on the run.
One of the men in custody identified the masterminds of the alleged plot as members of a rebel group the government believes is affiliated with the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) political party, Abebech said.
The OLF, a former rebel movement, returned to Ethiopia from exile after Abiy took office and has repeatedly disavowed any links to armed insurgents.
The Internet remained shut off Friday for an 11th consecutive day, though Addis Ababa remains calm and Abiy’s office issued a statement saying the surrounding Oromia region had “returned to calm and citizens have resumed normal activities.”
In her statement, however, Abebech said unnamed agitators were calling for additional protests and road blockages in the coming days.
“There are those that have hidden themselves in nice places but are calling on Ethiopian youth to fight each other, close roads and to cease working as part of a rebellion call,” Abebech said.
“Above all we call on our people to disobey this rebellion call and to thwart it.”