PESHAWAR - The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has allowed doctors to carry guns to and from work for their personal security, in the wake of startling surge in abductions of medical practitioners in Peshawar.

Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzai said on Thursday the police would decide which type of licences would be issued to the doctors.

In most of the extortion and abduction cases, doctors had been the victims, reports sent by the agencies to the provincial government said. The doctors had requested the government to allow them carry weapons.

On the other hand, some doctors criticised the move, and said it was the prime responsibility of the government to ensure security of the citizens, including doctors, and it should not shift its duty to others.

The medical community in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been reeling from growing lawlessness. According to reports, at least 26 doctors and professors were adducted over the past five years.

Doctors angry at the alleged apathy of the authorities were organising almost daily protest rallies, going on hunger strikes and partially boycotting state-run hospitals.

The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ruled by Imran Khan’s party in alliance with right-wing religio-political party Jamaat Islami had focused its attention on controlling violence, bringing rule of law and eliminating corruption.

During their regular protests doctors complained that their actions did not seem to have had much of an impact on the authorities, but have added to the misery of patients from remote and impoverished areas waiting at clinics without doctors.

"During the last five years, 26 of our highly qualified doctors and professors have been kidnapped," said Dr Aftab Kakar, a spokesperson for the Balochistan branch of the Pakistan Medical Association. "A majority of them returned after paying huge amounts in ransom money." Among them was Dr Ghulam Rasool, head of psychiatry at Bolan Medical College in Quetta. He was abducted from a crowded street in the city centre by six armed men.

The Pakistan Medical Association estimates that during the last five years, about 82 of Balochistan's best doctors and professors have left the province. Many of them are said to have moved to Europe and the Middle East.