What must be done about the killings of Pakistani healthcare workers?

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f280 (Published 16 January 2013)
Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f280

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  1. Zulfiqar A Bhutta, founding chair
  1. 1Division of Women and Child Health, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan
  1. zulfiqar.bhutta{at}aku.edu

It’s time to stop trying to accommodate those who spread fear and terror

In December 2012 nine volunteer polio workers, six of whom were young women, were murdered in Pakistan.1 A day later five female education workers were murdered on their way to work in Swabi (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). The coordinated attacks sent a chilling message to civic society that female workers and volunteers, hitherto protected by a strict Pashtun moral code, were now terrorist targets. These murders begin to fade into a background of incessant conflict and insurgency around the border areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the federally administered tribal areas, and Baluchistan. The city of Karachi is caught in a spiral of targeted killings and kidnappings for ransom.2 In Baluchistan, the law of the government has all but collapsed and the Hazara minorities have been forced to demand army rule in the main city, Quetta, to protect themselves from the threat of ethnic cleansing at the hands of a well connected and funded underground network of terrorist organisations.3 The nation is inured to reports of violent deaths on a daily basis, however, and the recent targeted killings of health workers are already off …

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