Doctors deny beating Pakistani Catholic to death

Accuse family of 'playing religious and ethnic cards' as hospital staff threaten to strike if arrested over incident
Doctors deny beating Pakistani Catholic to death

The widow and children of Suneel Saleem, who died after allegedly being beaten by doctors and security guards at a Lahore hospital. (Photo by Kamran Chaudhry)

Doctors accused of beating a 34-year-old Catholic to death at a hospital in Pakistan have defended their threat to go on strike if they are arrested. 

Salman Haseeb and four other doctors of Services Hospital in Lahore were named in a police report by the family of Suneel Saleem, who died on March 26 after an altercation when he responded to a female doctor slapping Kiran, his heavily pregnant sister.

"We belong to a noble profession and murder is a dangerous charge. The family is playing religious and ethnic cards to conceal the real facts. They are the real anti-state elements," Haseeb told ucanews.com. 

"Our hospitals do not discriminate on the basis of nationality and faith. Fifty percent of guards, 70 percent of nurses and 99 percent of sanitary workers as well as ward boys of Services Hospital are Christians."

Aneel Saleem, a brother of the dead man, has claimed that about 20 security guards and 14 doctors punched and attacked his brothers and cousins with batons, chairs and belts.

Saleem collapsed after police arrived at the hospital, claimed Haseeb, who is also media secretary of the Young Doctors Association (YDA).

"They [the family] attacked the guard first. I was passing by and arrived at the scene after hearing the clamor. None of the doctors attacked the attendants."

No arrests have been made. 

The YDA has threatened to call a protest or go on strike if their co-workers are arrested.

Meanwhile, the Catholic family is having trouble arranging pregnancy check-ups for Kiran.

"No hospital or doctor is willing to screen her due to the ongoing police investigations. We are using the services of a dai [traditional birth attendant] in our street," said Aneel Saleem.

The Pakistan Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace has urged Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to ensure that the perpetrators of the "heinous crime" are brought to justice immediately.

"The sudden increase in incidents of violence and intolerance has reached an alarming level. It is the responsibility of doctors to give care and support to a patient and treat them with respect regardless of their class, color or creed," the commission said in a statement.

It also expressed deep concern over the level of extreme negligence by the hospital's administration.

"Such kind of behavior is not expected from doctors. They have to understand the difficulties and anxieties faced by relatives and friends of patients," said Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, the commission's director.

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"Justice must be served to the poor family of Suneel. The chief justice of Pakistan should take ... notice of the case while the government and concerned departments should take strong measures to ensure that such tragic incidents do not occur in the future."

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