off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid


Be careful and move
 to escape
media trial


If you are heading a medical institution, healthcare facility or you have been appointed as the project director of any such institutions, you need to be extremely careful and move cautiously to escape media trial, humiliation and character assassination despite the fact that you may not have done anything wrong.

Just remember late Prof Saeed ul Haque Chaudhry was appointed the Project Director of the Children Hospital, Institute of Child Health at Lahore. A devoted and dedicated professional as he was, he worked day and night for this project. When it was nearing completion, one of the suppliers of electro medical equipment approached him, passed on to him a cheque book and said, “You can write any suitable amount you want but he would like to get the contract for supply of all electro medical equipment, instruments for the hospital.” Prof. Saeed ul Haque refused saying that he was not interested in this proposal. He does not have the final authority and there is a laid down procedure for the purchases through purchase committee after the tenders. The electro medical equipment supplier having failed to convince him, then threatened him saying that he better give the proposal a serious thought because his refusal to accept might land him in trouble. That is exactly what happened. An alleged corruption case was filed against Prof. Saeed ul Haque Chaudhry and few days later, he was arrested and put in jail. As most often happened, media ran stories without checking the facts, maligned him, he was defamed, humiliated and his character assassination went on for quite some time. Eventually after numerous enquiries, he was found innocent and released. When he was narrating his ordeal in the jail during his arrest to me, tears were rolling on his cheeks and I myself could not control my tears. This is what happens in Pakistan.

Yet in another case when military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf toppled the elected government of Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, another kind hearted, God fearing physician who is known for his intellectual honesty and credibility Prof. Shahryar Sheikh was also removed as Project Director of Punjab Institute of Cardiology. His only sin and crime was that he was alleged to be very close to the Sharifs. He used these contacts to get his numerous development schemes for PIC approved and got funding to ensure that the project was completed in time. He would not mind to go to any official in the Secretariat to get the PIC development projects file more form one stage to the other and this all helped him to build this tertiary cardiac care facility in Lahore. Numerous enquiries were ordered against him, he was called by the various agencies time and again which of course must have been very frustrating for him. He too had a media trial which always happens in Pakistan. All efforts were made for his character assassination but the agencies found no proof of corruption. Later the files were closed but the authorities did not have the courtesy to apologize to Prof. Shahryar Sheikh for the treatment which was meted out to him nor was he re-instated in his job. Prof. Shahryar Sheikh enjoys the rare distinction and honour of being the only Pakistani cardiologist to have ever been elected to the coveted post of President of World Heart Federation in recognition of his services to promote the discipline of cardiology and cardiac care.

Prof. Junaid Sarfraz the Pro Vice Chancellor of University of Health Sciences Lahore was arrested in a fake case of corruption regarding admission to medical colleges. He too had his share of media trial, humiliation, was defamed and his character assassination also went on for few months. Later enquiries revealed that he was innocent; no charge was proved against him. He was released. In his case the Supreme Court of Pakistan gave him a clean chit but here again the provincial government of Punjab which was supposed to protect the interests of its employees never apologized to Prof. Junaid Sarfraz and his family and this apology is still over due.

Moving on, perhaps it was stupid on the part of Prof. Saeed Akhtar an eminent liver transplant surgeon to have thought of building a Liver and Kidney Institute at Lahore. When he presented the case to the then Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, he told him that he hoped to complete the project within three years. Mian Shahbaz Sharif who is known for his hard work and commitment of completing all project in time or before time asked Prof. Saeed why three years. He will provide him the funding and make sure that this project is completed as soon as possible so that the liver transplant programme can be initiated and Pakistani patients do not have to go to India and China for this facility. He provided the funding and the PKLI project was almost completed before time. Prof. Saeed Akhtar had his share of media trial, humiliation and character assassination. Prof. Saeed Akhtar enjoys tremendous respect in the medical profession at home and overseas for his professional competence, intellectual integrity and credibility. He is now facing the music and according to reports he was politely asked by the authorities who matter at present to either resign or go on leave. He is reported to have gone on leave.

The objective of recalling all the above incidents is to remind you that do not take any decision at your own. Make sure that your boss has put his/her signature on any such projects before you put your signature and approve it. No need to work hard and show extra ordinary efficiency to complete the projects in time or before time. Just relax, enjoy and let everything move at its own speed. If you follow this advice, you will not only save yourself from any likely media trial, humiliation, character assassination but your family as well.

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