Skip to main content

Where are Balochistan’s female doctors?

Muhammad Akbar NotezaiSeptember 02, 2017

SITTING with two of his friends in front of Balochistan Kebab House on the main Brewery Road in Wahdat Colony, a heavily populated area of Quetta, elderly Haji Abdul Zaman Zehri shares that his daughter had recently survived a pregnancy complication after undergoing surgery.

Mr Zehri hails from Norgama town situated in Zehri tehsil, Khuzdar district, and talks about how there isn’t a single gynaecologist for the women of the town he hails from, which has a population of around 5,000 people. He had travelled to Quetta to be with his daughter who was brought to the Bolan Medical Complex for surgery.

“Luckily, we brought her to Quetta. Otherwise, my daughter would have met the fate of other women in our areas and elsewhere in the province that do not have female doctors, and would have died during pregnancy,” he says, adding that it was hard to come across good gynaecologists or female doctors even in Quetta.

Living in the capital of Balochistan, one often hears people complaining about a lack of female doctors in the city. But in the rest of the province, where the tribal codes governing social relations make for a deeply conservative social structure, it is rare for women to visit male doctors for consultation and treatment. Some families don’t take women to male doctors for treatment at all.


“Recently, I took my cousin to the Kidney Centre Hospital of Quetta because she had a problem with her kidney. At the time, there were no female doctors, so we had to consult a male doctor,” recalls a man, who has requested anonymity. “He kept staring at my cousin and asked her personal questions over which I reacted. Since then, I have not taken her back there.”

It is no secret that there is scant presence of women in Balochistan’s deeply patriarchal society. Most girls get married at a young age, often even against their will, and very few women get a chance to pursue careers or personal aspirations. Despite a decent number of female students at the Bolan Medical College (BMC) of Balochistan — the only medical college of the province — there are hardly 100 gynaecologists in Quetta.

Hence the question: why is there a dearth of female doctors in Balochistan?

Naimat Gichki, a Quetta-based senior doctor who has formerly served as the principal of the BMC, agrees that there is a shortage of female doctors even in the city, and the situation for the rest of the province is more serious.

He recalls, “In the past, it is true that there were a handful of female students, because 10 per cent of all students enrolled at the BMC were female students. Gradually and slowly, their number increased.”

He feels that women should pursue medicine as a career because “compared to men, they study a lot and do not roam around”. However, he feels that it is unfortunate that most of them get married soon after completing their education and have to stay in the city so as to balance their professional and familial duties. “They do not want to be posted in rural areas of Balochistan. Because, in rural areas, the social conditions are not developed; they feel more insecure and the hospitals are also abandoned.”

He recalls from his days of being the director at the BMC that often, after barely a month of being posted in rural areas, the fathers of female doctors would come visit him and complain: “Do you only see our daughter?”

However, there are some who blame the provincial government for not being bothered about the scant number of women practising medicine.

Lack of opportunity

Quetta-based Dr Sakina points out, “There are more than 500 female doctors who are jobless. We have not been paid our stipend for the last nine months. Besides, the posts are either announced late or only a handful number of seats are allocated for females. Due to these reasons, you would barely find one female doctor for thousands of patients in Balochistan.”

In response to a question about the shortage of female doctors, Balochistan Health Minister Rehmat Saleh Baloch retorts: “You can visit any hospital in Quetta to see a large number of female doctors.” He adds that it’s not that there aren’t many female doctors but it is actually a lack of women in the specialist cadre.

He concedes that there are more than 400 vacant posts but the reason for a lack of specialist doctors is that Balochistan has only one medical college. “There are several female doctors who are [soon] graduating, specialising and are doing their MCPS and FCPS. It takes a long time period to complete this process.”

The health minister agrees there has been a lack of female doctors in the past, but insists that his government has tried its best to meet the requirement. For instance, after completing FCPS, Mr Baloch says they refer female doctors ahead as gynaecologists.

Security situation

However, Balochistan’s deteriorating law and order situation remains a hurdle. Mr Baloch concedes: “Several female doctors who, after completing their specialisation, quit their professions, go abroad, and sometimes even leave without receiving payment. I have personally traced and terminated the services of several female doctors who were living abroad and they were not performing their duties.”

The government plans on bringing more women to the profession by opening three new medical colleges for the province, he says. “Human resource is a big challenge over here, and it will take us another 10 years to fill the gap of the specialist cadre.”

Most female doctors in Quetta give three reasons why they do not want to be posted out of Quetta — security; lack of facilities from the government; and the question of their children’s education, considering the abysmal state of education facilities in Balochistan’s rural areas.

“I am looking after patients in seven districts in Balochistan. There is not a single female doctor. Nor are there any other health facilities available. That is why the maternal mortality rate is so high. Compared to midwives, female medical officers are better equipped to deliver babies,” Dr Zeenat Shahwani says.

Dr Shahwani also complains about a lack of seats in division quotas, and adds that when posts are announced through commission exams, only 20 out of 100 posts are allocated for women. The health minister disagrees and insists that the government allocates posts on an equal basis.

While many believe that female doctors quit the profession after marrying into well-to-do families, Dr Sadia Ali Baloch, who is also a women rights activist, disagrees. “I have not come across a single female doctor who has quit her profession after getting married. I am myself married and have children. Despite that I am performing my duties as a doctor.”

She recalls when she was posted to Kharan in 2014. “I went there happily to serve my own people because I hail from there. Unfortunately, I did not have access to any facilities while I was there. I had been sent there to conduct surgeries and normal deliveries but there were no facilities to conduct either of these. There was no anaesthetist, nor was I given the facility of residence or basic operators. Therefore, I refused to work there because there was no way I could perform my duties in such conditions or could I serve the people in the absence of basic medical facilities,” she recalls.

“If the government provided medical facilities in Quetta and elsewhere in the province, there is no doubt that female doctors and gynaecologists would love to perform their duties. Nor would Balochistan ever run out of female doctors.”

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2017


Popular posts from this blog

Balochistan to establish first medical university

The Newspaper's Staff CorrespondentOctober 25, 2017QUETTA: The provincial cabinet on Tuesday approved the draft for establishing a medical university in Balochistan.Health minister Mir Rehmat Saleh Baloch made the announcement while speaking at a press conference after a cabinet meeting.“The cabinet has approved the draft of the medical university which would be presented in the current session of the Balochistan Assembly,” he said, adding with the assembly’s approval the Bolan Medical College would be converted into a medical university.Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017

5 Shia Hazara community members gunned down in Pakistan

Five members of the minority Shia Hazara community, including two women, were killed on Sunday in an attack by unidentified gunmen in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.This is not the first time that members of the Hazara community have been targeted in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan.(Reuters File Photo)Updated: Sep 11, 2017 00:20 ISTBy Press Trust of India, Press Trust of India, KarachiFive members of the minority Shia Hazara community, including two women, were killed on Sunday in an attack by unidentified gunmen in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.The gunmen targeted a car in Kuchluck area of Quetta while it was coming from the Chaman border crossing area, police said.The firing took place when the travellers had stopped at a filling station to refuel their vehicle. Five people of the Shia Hazara community, including two women, died in …

China’s 'Digital Silk Road': Pitfalls Among High Hopes

Will information and communication technologies help China realize its Digital Silk Road?By Wenyuan WuNovember 03, 2017In his speech at the opening ceremony of China’s 19th Party Congress, President Xi Jinping depicted China as a model of scientific and harmonious development for developing nations. Xi’s China wants to engage the world through commerce but also through environmental protection and technological advancement. This includes Beijing’s efforts to fight climate change with information and communication technologies (ICTs) that it plans to export along its “One Belt One Road” initiative (OBOR). Xi may have ambitious plans, but could China be throwing up obstacles in its own way?In his speech, the Chinese president emphasized the need to modernize the country’s environmental protections. The Chinese state is taking an “ecological civilization” approach to development and diplomacy, with a natio…