Pakistan Health Minister Zafar Mirza has written an article in British medical journal The Lancet in support of its last month’s editorial on public health in Kashmir. Mirza condemned the Indian Medical Association’s criticism of the journal’s editorial, saying it was “akin to shooting the messenger”.

On August 17, the medical journal, in an article titled “Fear and uncertainty around Kashmir’s future, raised concerns on the “health, safety, and freedoms of the Kashmiri people” in the wake of the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. The Indian Medical Association said the journal had “committed breach of propriety by commenting on a political issue”.

In his article in The Lancet, published on September 4, Zafar Mirza said the association’s stance had caused great concern to him as a member of the medical fraternity. Referring to The Lancet’s work as “an important policy and public health tool”, Mirza said that the criticism by a “medical association supposedly representing the custodians of health of the world’s largest democracy is misguided and immature, to say the least, and akin to shooting the messenger”.

Mirza said that the Indian Medical Association “must not forget that when the medical profession becomes accomplice to nationalistic and ideological jingoism, the results for humanity are inevitably tragic, as evidenced by the holocaust in Europe not so long ago”.

“I urge the IMA, or at least the individual doctors this body represents, to have the courage and moral imperative to retract this misguided and damaging statement against The Lancet and focus their attention on the suffering of the people they have taken an oath to protect,” Mirza wrote. “The civilised world cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Mirza cited an article in another medical journal, The BMJ, published on August 19, to state that Kashmiris were being denied access to essential health care and were living under “great duress”. He said the long-term psychological consequences in the region would be felt for generations to come.

In its August 17 editorial, The Lancet had said that the prolonged exposure to violence in the region had resulted in a “formidable mental health crisis”. It had cited a Médecins Sans Frontières study in two rural districts of Jammu and Kashmir, which found that almost half of Kashmiris rarely felt safe and one in five out of those who had lost a family member due to some form of violence, had witnessed the death firsthand.

Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.