islamabad - Residents of France Colony and 100 Quarters (slums) converged yesterday in F-7/4 to protest the illegal and unjust closure of a trust-run free treatment centre that has being served the needs of hundreds of Islamabad’s working class diabetics, most of whom are residents of slums situated in F-7, F-6 and G-7.

The Awami Workers Party organised the protest. The Auqaf department and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) closed the clinic on April 27 without any notice. Patients suspect that the administration wishes to rent out the space to a private clinic to generate income.

Hundreds of residents of France Colony and F-7 and G-7 slums are unable to afford exorbitant fees at private clinics. Without free treatment, they are in danger of losing much-needed medical treatment.

“The closure of the clinic is a reflection of a longstanding policy by Islamabad authorities to serve the rich at the expense of the poor,” said Shabana Robin from France Colony.

Rani Baji, a resident of France Colony, explained the potential ramifications of the closure of the dispensary for her community. “Where will our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children go now? We cannot afford diabetes treatment. We already know that the state provides no healthcare to the poor in a federal capital. Now it is forcing the handful of free clinics present in the city to close down.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), almost 19 million Pakistanis suffer from diabetes, and the risk of diabetes is growing every day. The international organisation projects that almost 400 people die directly of diabetes or high glucose levels every day. Diabetic patients are additionally at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, leg amputations, and blindness. With no national policy, and one physician visit costing above Rs 2500, treatment for diabetes is only available to Pakistan’s rich people.

“The right to life is a constitutional right, and that right is being trampled on by the city authorities. Not only is the federal government failing to provide free healthcare to its citizens but it is also snatching away the handful of free treatment options that Islamabad’s working class have,” said Ammar Rashid of AWP.