off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Non-Resident Indians
and Part-time Pakistanis

During one of my visits to United States some years ago, my host an important member of the then Executive of Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA) took me for a dinner at a hotel and also invited one of his Indian friend a surgeon. Much more than the food which of course was delicious, I liked the opportunity it provided to talk to them in detail which was very useful and informative.

It may be mentioned here that a large number of Indians mostly professionals which includes a large number of doctors as well are living in United States which is their second home. These are called NRIs (Non-Resident Indians). Indians is a very well knit community here, they have a very powerful political lobby as well and they have also contributed a great deal to the progress and development back home. Our Indian friend told me that the Government of India not only has recognized their contributions but have also honoured quite a few of these NRIs with Awards, offers them lot of incentives to make investment and this has enabled them to contribute to the economic progress and development of their country. A large number of Indian doctors are occupying academic positions in centers of excellence, universities and they in turn help the new incoming Indian doctors to settle in Residency Training as well. During our discussion our Indian friend further told us that many Indians back home jokingly also call us as “Non-Reliable Indians”.

On the contrary, Pakistani physicians in United States which at present as per figures related to the Year 2019, are thirteen thousand two hundred seventy three (13,273) of which 92.5% are Pakistani citizens. Five thousand six hundred twenty of these Pakistani physicians are primary care physicians. One thousand five hundred fifty seven are doing Residency. On the whole 24% of physicians in United States and 25% of those doing residency are International Medical graduates.1

Pakistani doctors are mostly in private practice rather than in academic positions except a very few. Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA) which was formed in mid 70s has been quite active and has also contributed quite a lot to promote the academic medicine back home by regularly holding annual conferences besides various Alumni’s of different medical colleges which are part of the APPNA also hold meetings at their alma matter regularly. In 80s and 90s, APPNA as well as various Alumni’s did help their respective institutions in Pakistan in different ways , also extended valuable help and assistance to young doctors find Residency in United States besides helping them adjust in the initial years. However, later on APPNA also got infected with politics and different groups emerged with many people with their own vested interests which badly affected its activities and functioning. Just like Pakistan, there emerged various groups, affiliated with various political parties, they all had different agenda and they could not represent the interests of Pakistan as a strong body which it used to though it still holds its meetings regularly but not with the same enthusiasm.

More recently talking to one of the Pakistani American doctors who had come to attend the International Medical Conference of Shalamar Medical & Dental College at Lahore revealed that many of them were not so happy at present. When I asked him how often you visit Pakistan, he said, “I try to come here and water my routes almost every year.” However, though in United States I got everything I wished but now I realize that I made a mistake. When asked to share the mistake, he said, I should not have married foreigner in United States. Now neither my wife is interested to come to Pakistan nor are my children willing to visit Pakistan. They just came once but now whenever I ask them, they do not show any interest. However, I cannot remain away for long, hence I do visit to meet my relatives and friends. Once I leave this world, I do not think my children will ever come here. The first generation may still have some interest but the generation which will follow will have absolutely no feelings for Pakistan. For all practical purposes, we have become Part-time Pakistanis, he remarked. The successive governments here too have not given any importance to these Pakistani Americans and not many seem to be inclined to invest in Pakistan because of numerous reasons one of which being the absence of conducive friendly environment for investment. I now realize that some of my friends who went to UK or even USA and did come back soon after post-graduation took the right decision and I now feel they are much better off though they may not have the comforts of the West. After the Trump Presidency, the things are becoming more difficult for foreign nationals and one does not know what is going to happen in future, he further stated.

This just reflects the true state of affairs and many Pakistani doctors settled abroad now realize that those who returned back home took the wise decision. Particularly those who got married to foreigners find themselves in a very difficult situation. Pakistani doctors who are working in Pakistan, serving their countrymen have contributed a great deal. However, increasing cases of violence against the healthcare professionals and healthcare institutions, malicious campaign in the media particularly the electronic media needs to be condemned before it is too late. It is these very reasons that now many a times the doctors in private hospitals, clinics are reluctant to manage serious cases and they are most often referred to the public hospitals. Hence, the ultimate sufferers of this malicious media campaign is not the healthcare professionals but the patients themselves many of whom could have been saved. Recently the government seems to have woke up and now some steps are being taken to check violence against the medical profession and the healthcare institutions. One hopes these measures will be implemented in letter and spirit so that the healthcare professionals can work with ease, concentrate on their work, serve with dedication, devotion in safe environment and comfortable surroundings.

Ref: John Boulet from FAIMER. Presentation at 7th International Conference on Health Professions Education by Khyber Medical University held at Peshawar on March 19-21st 2019. Pulse International Vol.20,No. 10, May 15th 2019. Page-11.

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