One would assume that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure the safety and general well-being of citizens against potential harm of varying nature; common sense says thatgovernmental authorities – be it provincial or federal – are usually expected to execute their role as the citizens’ guardian in a range of turbulent scenarios.

However, with the recent development in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, this logic seems to be applied in reverse: The provincial government has shifted the onus of protecting the medical practitioners of Peshawar from assault and abduction away from itself and onto the very shoulders of doctors. In a statement indicating the permission for doctors to possess guns on their way to and from work, Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzai maintained this measurement would empower doctors of Peshawar against increased numbers of kidnappings and violence.

In the past five years, at least 26 doctors as well as professors have been abducted by armed men and were freed only after paying huge amounts of ransom money. Agitated by this never ending cycle of attacks, doctors of the city have staged protests, hunger strikes in addition to boycotting state-run hospitals. Given the viciousness of these assaults, many doctors have chosen to leave the country and seek employment in Europe and the Middle East.

The Health Ministry’s decision to equip doctors with guns may stem from well-meaning intentions but it fails to realize that gun-carrying doctors are not the antidote to the perpetrators of abductions. In fact, it creates an environment of anarchy that implies that the government and law-enforcing agencies are embarrassingly incapable of addressing mounting lawlessness in society, consequently leaving citizens on their own to battle with culprits. As some doctors in Peshawar have said before, it is indeed the prime responsibility of the government to safeguard ordinary people from relentless violence, not the other way around.