Late Prof. Manzar Saleem was a young energetic surgeon with keen interest in academics and publications. He was a leader of the surgeon’s community, was elected as President of Society of Surgeons of Pakistan and was also Editor of Pakistan Journal of Surgery. I had known him since his college days and with the passage of time we became friends. His interest in medical journalism brought us still closer and I requested him to accept the responsibilities of General Secretary of Pakistan Medical Journalists Association (PMJA) which was later renamed as Pakistan Association of Medical Editors (PAME) which he agreed. He was very active during the first ever medical conference on Medical Editing that we organized at Army Medical College Rawalpindi during April 23-25 2007 when Prof. Maj. Gen. Mohammad Aslam was the Principal of Army Medical College.
Prof. Manzar Saleem died at a very young age. Few years before his death once I went to see him at Civil Hospital Karachi. Another faculty member of Dow University of Health Sciences was already sitting with him. When he left, I asked Prof. Manzar Saleem, what was being discussed at which he said that the Senate elections of DUHS are going to be held shortly and he is a candidate of the “Q League” i.e. the establishment and he had come to ask for my vote. Continuing Prof. Manzar Saleem said that I asked him “what will you do if you become member of the Senate. You cannot speak, you can only raise your hand at the slightest indication and instructions.”
Continuing Prof. Manzar Saleem said that corrupt disgruntled politicians and bureaucrats are not the only one responsible for the rapid decline and deterioration of medical education and healthcare delivery system in the country. In fact the doctors themselves and those who somehow maneuver to occupy the coveted posts in medical, healthcare institutions and become a part of the medical bureaucracy are much more responsible for the current state of affairs. Our system is such that the corrupt politicians will never afford to appoint people on merit to head various institutions, instead they always select mediocre, going for those who can be ”managed and controlled”. When these mediocre get selected, since they have not come on merit, they have no regard for merit and go on surrounding themselves with mediocre, incompetent, lowly qualified, with inadequate experience promoting such characters to various important posts. Thus they are surrounded such sycophants and praise singers who day in and day out sing praises for the boss making him believe that without him the institution will collapse and cannot function efficiently forgetting the fact that graveyards are full of such people who once considered themselves “Indispensable”. This Tamasha goes on and on. In the absence of people heading these institutions on merit, the only ray of hope remains that if we can select right, honest, competent people to the Senate, they can take up issues and ensure that at least merit is upheld, all sort of corruption, financial as well as intellectual can be checked and judicious use of the available resources is ensured. This is no doubt an uphill task because election of honest people is not easy as the ‘establishment” has got too much resources to buy the loyalties in a set up where we have no dearth of people who are always prepared to sell their conscious.
Whatever Prof. Manzar Saleem had said was nothing new to me and there are quite a few people in the medical profession who are struggling for a chance in the present system and keep on pointing out these things from time to time at different forums. Many of them have suffered a lot and some of them even got their professional career spoiled during the process.
Late Prof. Manzar Saleem also led the struggle against the then establishment at the CPSP and was the moving spirit of the whole election campaign in Karachi. After winning the elections when the new establishment took over administrative control of CPSP, as usually happens, they also forget Prof. Manzar Saleem. During our discussions when I asked him about these new developments, he was sad, depressed and said, now perhaps they do not need me, they have never contacted me and I have stopped going to the CPSP. These are the after results of every revolution which is seen so common.
When I look back now and recall all those discussions with Prof. Manzar Saleem which we often used to have during our meetings, it seems how true he was but what is more frustrating is the fact that nothing has changed since then. There is a basic difference between the civil administration and the Army set up. Army is a disciplined institution with a system and does its planning much ahead in advance. On the contrary in the Civilian set up, there is seldom any planning and decisions are often taken on adhoc basis. Have you ever heard the post of head of any organization in the Army lying vacant or post of any Core Commander vacant for a day? Much before the retirement of the incumbents, their replacements are trained and selected to replace them at the right time without wasting any moment but in the Civilian set up, those occupying the coveted posts even after retirement, keep on making intrigues and maneuvers to get extension after extension and prolong their stay on one pretext or the other of course with the connivance of the disgruntled, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. This is one of the reasons that people start losing faith in democracy and then start looking towards un-democratic forces but Pakistani politicians refuse to learn any lesson.
Tail Piece: Visionary leaders are people of Acton. They constantly push themselves to find better and faster ways to merge the present with future and realize their vision.