CHITRAL-The protest sit-in staged by most of the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) employees entered fifth day on Wednesday against AKHS’ plan to terminate the employees and closing of seven health centres in Chitral.

Meanwhile, dialogues between the protesters and the AKHS management remained fruitless. Different politicians and social workers are also visiting the protest sit-in camp held at AKHS main office Chitral and expressing their sympathies with the protesters. Some 163 out of total 296 employees of the Aga Khan Health Service (AGHS) Chitral continued their protest. As a result, the service in the health centres of AKHS was affected in different parts of the area causing immense hardship to the patients.

Talking to this correspondent, the protesting employees said the organisation was planning to terminate their services without giving them any incentives.

They said initially the AKHS had planned to sack about 77 employees but when the staff put up pressure on the authorities the number was reduced to 15 to 20 employees.

They said if the AKHS wanted to carry out downsising it should give its employees golden handshake incentives or provide them with pension as was done by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, or other institute of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

Most of the protesters staging the sit-in were women who said they had worked in the organisation for years. If they were sent home at that age they would not be able to get jobs anywhere else, they said. The protesters said if they were sacked without pension or golden handshake, they would continue their protest and even extend it to other parts of the country, they threatened.

When this correspondent visited the AKHS office in Chitral, the staff there tried to pressure him not to report the matter. Later, Dr Zafar Ahmad, the head of Community Health and Government Relations, said that they were closing seven health centres in Chitral.

He said the AKHS had already informed the employees that the centres having very low patient visits would be shut but the staff went on a strike. AKHS Director Yousaf Shahzad refused to comment on the issue.

Naeem, a social worker and president of Mine Association, said that he had donated 2 acres land for Aga Khan Hospital at Shoghor conditionally that they would depute male and female doctors to serve the needy people. But now they are likely to close that hospital. He said if the hospital was closed he would reoccupy his land.

Ali Sher Khan of Booni said that he had donated land for AKHS hospital at Kroijunali and serving there for the last 15 years but now them terminating his service without giving pension or other benefits.