off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid


Some bitter facts from
down the memory lane


Late Prof. Iftikhar Ahmad former Principal of Kind Edward Medical College who also served as Punjab Health Secretary for some time was a very dear friend. Despite that I did disagree with him on certain issues and also wrote about it which was quite unpalatable for him, which he tolerated and we still remained friends till his death. Once in the first week of December 1987 he rang me up and said we in the medical profession have enough from the bureaucracy and now I have decided to speak out. I have invited the President of Pakistan General Muhammad Zia ul Haque to be the chief guest the Convocation of King Edward Medical College and would like me to be present there.

The Convocation was held on December 16th 1987 at the KEMC Campus which was presided over by President General Zia ul Haque. In the presence of the whole provincial and federal bureaucracy which mattered at that time, Prof. Iftikhar Ahmad in his welcome address said that it is a well-known fact that only the brilliant students take up the science subjects. Every year after FSc result is out, the “Cream” of the students opts to join medical colleges and take up medicine as a career but the left over which is “Lassi” and nothing else goes to civil service, business, law, politics, and army and so on though there are a few exceptions. After becoming doctors, this cream of the society spends many years specializing at home and overseas studying at the best medical institutions of the world. They are inducted as Medical Teachers in Grade-17 to begin with and maximum they can get is Grade-20. And just look at the tragedy the Lassi Group which joins civil services has all the opportunities not only to go up to Grade-22 but what is most unfortunate  is that  they also rule over the “Cream” and sent the audience laughing which kept on clapping  for quite some time.

Continuing Prof. Iftikhar Ahmad further stated that Bureaucracy never approves any scheme meant for the betterment or welfare of healthcare professionals. The senior most teacher becomes Principal but he is powerless, helpless and some even say useless who cannot even sanction leave of his staff. He has no say in the appointment of his staff, utilization of college funds, purchase of equipment or any other development scheme as all these decisions rests with Health Department which exercises this through the Section Officers. (The situation has improved a lot in later years) Under such circumstances how you expect the doctors to do their Best, he remarked. His appeal to the President to do Justice had a positive effect and President General Zia ul Haque in his extempore speech which he replaced with the written speech, announced that from now onward medical teachers will also be eligible to go up to Grade-22 and asked the establishment division to make necessary recommendations in this regard. Prof. Iftikhar Ahmad also got lot of autonomy for King Edward Medical College even much more than was later available when the medical colleges and affiliated teaching hospitals were administered by Board of Governors. Since then, a number of senior doctors have got and retired in Grade-22.

In another instance I was having lunch with Prof. Riaz Ahsan Siddiqui a noted ENT specialist who was on a visit from Lahore, at Karachi Gymkhana in early 1988 when he was accompanied by his two sons. Prof.Riaz Siddiqui had also served as Prof. of ENT at KEMC and as Principal of Allama Iqbal Medical College before retirement. I asked him what the plans of your children are? He said I am trying to convince them to take up Medicine as a professional career but they are not interested. I asked his elder son why he was not interested in Medicine and what were his plans? He said he intend to join Army. I said why and is there any specific reason for that?  He kept quiet for a few seconds and then said “Uncle, it offers me bright chances of myself one day becoming the President of Pakistan” which stunned me. He further explained that there is no dearth of disgruntled and opportunist politicians in Pakistan who cannot survive in a democratic set up. They always love and look forward for a military dictatorship in which they survive and progress.  Hence, the chances of Martial Law rule any time cannot be ruled out. There are very remote chances that a democratic system will be allowed to function and flourish in Pakistan. I asked his second son what were his plans to which he replied that he intends to join Police Service. When I asked him why, he said, look a police official has lot of respect and everyone is afraid of him in the society. My Father is a senior Professor but who bothers for teachers or senior professionals like him. What is their salary and what perks and privileges do they enjoy which compared to these police officials are nothing. Listening to the views of these two young boys was very frustrating for me and I started thinking, if this is the thinking of the younger generation of Pakistan, it was a disaster.  We need to do some research about this change in mindset as previously young boys and girls used to say they wish to become doctor or teacher and serve the nation. When General Pervez Musharraf toppled the elected Government of Mian Nawaz Sharif, I remembered what was said by that young student while we were having lunch at Karachi Gymkhana. That is why it is said that “Bachey Hameesha Such Boltay Hain”. Even otherwise, some powerful vested interests do not wish to see democracy flourish in Pakistan for reasons which are not difficult to understand.

For me teacher in every subject, discipline, deserve much more respect, privileges because they are the one who are responsible for uplifting the society as a whole and building the Nation. Education and Education alone is the most important aspect which deserve utmost attention of our planners and those in the government. It is heartening to note that in the recent Federal and Provincial budgets, there has been an appreciable increase in financial allocations for health and Education. But as long as “Lassi” continues to call the shots and rule over “Cream” we can neither hope for a stable democratic set up nor the disgruntled politicians will allow the democracy to flourish and prosper.  Let us hope we all learn lessons from our past mistakes and work for strengthening the institutions, democratic set up, economy so that Pakistan can progress and move forward.

© Professional Medical Publications. All rights reserved.