Islamabad -  After India’s denial to issue visas to Pakistani liver patients, the government is now looking towards Turkey to get the seriously ill patients treated in their hospitals on concessional rates.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja Muhammad Asif in a recent reply to National Assembly said that since May 2017, the government of India has made visas for all Pakistani patients conditional to each application being personally referred by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister to the External Affairs Minister of India.

He said that this was not only against diplomatic norms and inter-state practices but has also created immense problems for the Pakistani patients, many of whom require immediate lifesaving interventions. He said that the situation has become grave as the visas were even refused to patients already seeing Indian doctors for a long time.

He said that instead of treating Pakistani patients on humanitarian grounds, the Indian government was politicizing it.

“The Indian government has been issuing visas to selected cases, often in response to applicants requesting the Indian External Affairs Minister, on twitter mainly for political point scoring,” he said in his reply.

Asif said that Pakistan has raised the issue with the Indian government and consistently maintained that the humanitarian issues should not be held hostage to politics, but the Indian government has not relented.

The foreign minister said that Pakistani mission in Turkey had been actively engaged with the host government to explore the possibility of Pakistani patients obtaining treatment preferably on concessional rates. According to the information, the patients were going to Turkey, he said.

According to the Grant Thornton report, as healthcare was turning costlier in developed countries, the Indian medical tourism industry which was worth $3 billion in 2016 was expected to double at around $8 billion by 2020.

As per the World Health Organization report, Pakistan has the world’s second highest prevalence of hepatitis C, second only to Egypt.

 

 A survey carried out in 2007 suggested that close to 7 percent of people in the Punjab province had hepatitis C, while around 5 percent of people were infected with the ailment in the entire country.