Quaid-e-Azam’s Personal Physician - Some historical facts

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Quaid-e-Azam’s Personal Physician:

Some historical facts

Lt Gen (Retd) Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar, HI(M)
Former Surgeon General/DGMS (IS)

Pakistan is a mill of rumour mongers. There are too many wide-spread untruths, half truths and false perceptions. The topic in point is about the Quaid-e-Azam’s personal physicians – there are wide-spread myths. One may not give importance to myths spread by ordinary lot but when they come from the mouths/pens of responsible authorities, they assume significance and need critical analysis to establish facts.


Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar

At one of the convocations of King Edward Medical University (KEMU), its Vice-Chancellor stated in his convocation address that the students of KEMU (old KEM college) should take pride of the fact that Lt Col Illahi Bakhsh was K.E.M.U’s student who as a personal physician of the Quaid kept his illness secret and quoted Lord Mount Batten that if he had come to know of his illness – he would have delayed the process of independence and Pakistan would not have come into existence. This part of the convocation address was given much space in the press without any scrutiny. Statements of this kind keep on pouring in the press, there was an article in one journal stating that Lt Col Illahi Bakhsh was Quaid’s personal physician, after his death Lt Col Illahi Bakhsh became Principal of the King Edward Medical College.

To put the record straight, I wrote to the KEMU Vice Chancellor stating the fact so that Lt Col Illahi Bakhsh graduated in Medicine from Guy’s College London, gained his MRCP London and later he obtained M.D from the London University. Therefore he had his education in London and not at Lahore.

He joined the Indian Medical Service (IMS), was posted to the field Army Units as RMO and as medical specialist at Military hospitals, later he was seconded to the civil and posted as professor of pharmacology and therapeutics of the K.E.M.C. On the outbreak of World War-II he was reverted to the Army on active war service – posted in Army medical units at Burma war zone, where he became prisoner of war and was kept in Japanese prisoner’s camps. On cessation of war hostilities and on Japanese surrender he was released and posted to his original post at K.E.M.C as the professor of pharmacology and therapeutics. During this era Quaid was living in Bombay and his personal physician was Dr. Patel, a leading Parsi physician at Bombay. He kept Quaid’s illness in absolute secrecy – he used to get Quaid’s X-ray chest done personally and destroyed the films.

Unfortunately neither our Government nor our medical associations/organizations have honoured Dr. Patel. On emergence of Pakistan, Quaid moved to Karachi. Dr. Muhammad Ali Mistry was a prominent practicing physician at Bombay, he was also honorary consultant to Royal Indian Navy – holding the honorary rank of Surgeon-Commander. On Quaid’s advice he moved to Karachi and was Quaid’s personal physician. (The Daily Tribune express 15th August – Mr. M. Ali Mistry; photograph in Naval Commanders Uniform by Nargis Mistri).

Quaid remained active, working day and night – even traveling – in the severely cold month of January 1948 to Quetta where he addressed the Army Officers at the Staff College Quetta reminding them the significance of the Oath they take. He said that he was surprised to know that many officers did not understand the true spirit of the Oath taken by them.

When Quaid reached terminal stage – he was shifted to Ziarat – Dr. Mistri accompanying him. There Lt Col Illahi Bakhsh working as the Principal of the K.E.M.C and Professor of Medicine and Therapeutics was contacted for Quaid’s further medical management. Lt Col Illahi Bakhsh along with Dr. Riaz Ali Shah – a TB specialist and Dr. Ghulam Muhammad – a clinical pathologist moved to Ziarat for the treatment of Quaid. Quaid had emaciated to just skin and bones. There were no anti-TB drugs available then, treatment was palliative, recovery dependent upon body’s immunological responses. Streptomycin had just been discovered – which was of course too toxic for an emaciated patient. A few streptomycin vials were flown to Karachi from London, but to no avail and Quaid expired on Sept 11 1948 at Karachi. Keeping in view the marvelous job done by Quaid’s personal physicians, what we can do is that the Government should give posthumous award to Dr. Patel. Our doctors/profession should mature and develop the culture of seeking truth by inquiry and not indulge in rumor mongering. This is one of the major reasons of our national decline.

As regards the practice of appointment of personal physicians of rulers of this sub-continent, there is evidence from the history of British India that the Viceroy used to have a primary care physician of the junior rank of major to look after the staff of Viceroy.

The Governor General (G.G) Quaid-e-Azam had a private personal physician – no official personal physician. Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din as G.G also had no official personal physician. It was the G.G Ghulam Muhammad who got senior-most medical specialist appointed from Armed Forces as his official personal physician. At that time the Armed Forces had only a few senior medical specialists. He also engaged an American nurse at very high cost for his personal care. It was in fact Mr Ghulam Mohd who started the luxury of having a senior most medical specialist on his staff and along with his collaborators destroyed democracy in Pakistan and led Pakistan to western pacts leading to all the disastrous problems which Pakistan is facing to this day. G.G and later president Sikandar Mirza, President General Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan and President Z.A Bhutto retained senior medical specialists as their personal physician. Later on becoming Prime-Minister (PM) Mr. Bhutto got senior Armed Forces medical specialist appointed as his personal official physician and also got a military secretary and ADCs from the Armed Forces. This was the first example of any democratic Prime Minister having military staff and since then the practice is continuing. It is pertinent to point out that no-where in the world, PMs hold military personal staff.

Heads of the States of foreign countries have been visiting Pakistan – none had personal physicians. In the 1990s Common Wealth conference was held at Australia, none of the Heads of state were accompanied by a “Personal Physician”, even the Queen as the Head of the Common-wealth had no personal physician. The sole exception was the President of Pakistan. We follow the footprints of Mughle-Shehn Shahs. The people of Pakistan do not get even ordinary healthcare while our rulers indulge in luxuries unknown to the democratic world. It is high time that we correct ourselves.