Monday, October 14, 2013
These days we hardly hear of any of the good things done by ordinary people for the common man. Whenever there is a social welfare or educational function, I am usually invited. I left Karachi almost 36 years ago, but I am still remembered as a Karachiite.
After migrating from Bhopal in 1952 I settled in Karachi. I worked there for about three years as inspector of weights and measures before leaving for higher studies in Berlin in 1961. My whole family lives in Karachi and three of my brothers and my mother are buried there, hence my continued close affinity with that city. On my recent visit there I attended three functions, the experience of which I would like to share.
The first was arranged by the Society for the Promotion of Arabic (SPA). This was its 36th convocation and, as the chief guest, I distributed certificates. The SPA, which was set up by my close friend, Zafar Iqbal, has been very active in this important field. He is a businessman but is also very active in social welfare work. The SPA has been active in promoting Arabic for the last 40 years.
Well known journalist, Zahid Malik, industrialists Sardar Yasin Malik and Inam Ahmad Usmani, Senator Abdul Haseeb Khan, M M Malik, Abdullah Feroze, Brig Muzaffar Hassan, former Ambassador Jamil Ahmad Khan, Brig Asif Ghazali and a large number of notables, teachers and students were present at the occasion. A few students gave short speeches in fluent Arabic. Zafar Iqbal also presented his speech in Arabic.
There are two gentlemen about whom I would like to say more – Brig Asif Ghazali and Jamil Ahmad Khan. Brig Ghazali escorted Dr Ishfaq and me in a special plane to Dalbandin, and from there to Chaghi by helicopter on May 28, 1998, where Dr F H Hashmi in charge of the KRL team and Dr Samar Mubarakmand of the PAEC team were working together to conduct the nuclear tests.
Brig Ghazali was a colonel at the time and was fully aware of the importance of the event. He requested our autographs, which we gladly gave. Jamil Ahmad Khan, as a captain, had served us at Embarkation HQ, Karachi. He later joined the police force and rose to the rank of SSP in Islamabad during Benazir’s second term.
When Leghari dismissed Benazir’s government, Ahmad Khan was made OSD. At my request he was posted with us, where he proved himself to be a sharp, intelligent officer. After some time he won a scholarship for LLM in England and we allowed him to leave. Upon his return from abroad he was selected for the UN Force in East Timor and then went to the UN HQ in New York as a senior officer. After the 2008 elections, Zardari appointed him as ambassador to Libya and then to the UAE. He resigned and returned to Karachi after the last elections where, I am sure, he will find productive employ since he is a competent officer.
The second function I attended as chief guest was arranged by the Umair Sana Foundation to celebrate their 10th anniversary in the fight against thalassaemia. The foundation was set up by Dr Kashif Hussain Ansari who lost two of his beloved children to the disease and resolved to fight it to protect other children. Dr Kashif is now in Canada, but his brother, Dr Saqib Hussain Ansari, a haematologist, is running USF. Other family members and doctors are also fully committed to this noble work.
My own interest in this disease dates back to1991, when Gen Faheem Ahmad Khan and Gen Riaz Ahmad Chohan (then head of our medical facilities) decided to set up a centre to treat thalassaemia patients. I supported the facilities to the best of my capacity. This centre still provides useful services today. In earlier articles I mentioned the laudable work done by the Punjab Thalassaemia Prevention Programme, the Kashif Iqbal Thalassaemia Foundation, Karachi, the Al-Mustafa Trust Hospital (Haji Hanief Tayyab), Karachi and the Thalassaemia Treatment Centre in Multan run by my dear friend, Dr A Rashid Seyal.
All these institutions are helping a large number of patients with good results. All parents-to-be in Pakistan should understand the terrible consequences this disease has for their children. It can only be prevented by avoiding first cousin and in-community marriages. It is also essential that pre-marital testing be carried out to ascertain whether either, or both, of the partners are carriers.
In that way a lot of agony to both parents and children can be prevented. In Pakistan, about 7,000 children are born with thalassaemia every year and there are about eight million patients in the country.
The third function I attended was the board of governors meeting of the newly-built Nazeer Hussain University (NHU) in Federal B Area, Karachi. This university has been named after Mufti Nazeer Hussain, a famous religious scholar of Agra and father of Altaf Hussain. The campus is purpose built and is beautiful and spacious. Its driving force has been my friend, Abdul Rauf Siddiqui, a fine literary figure. The vice-chancellor is Prof Dr Nasim Ahmad Khan, former VC of Hamdard University and a dear friend, while Tariq Mir is the president. The board of governors consists, among others the VCs of Karachi University, NED University and Dr Ziauddin University, Prof Dr M D Shami, Syed Sardar Ali, Sardar Yasin Malik, Rauf Siddiqui and myself.
The founding principle of NHU is given by Sir Michael Barber, one of the UK’s leading educationists and adviser to Pakistan to implement large-scale changes to transform the country’s educational system: “Pakistan has been through a precarious time…it is still a fragile place with major security threats…if the education system fails for another 10-20 years, we would see it going into a huge downward spiral…But an educated Pakistan could be a thriving democracy, it could see economic growth comparable to India and China.”
Associated with the university from England are Prof Murray Fraser, Prof Nasser Golzari, Prof Peter Mason, Prof Akbar Aboutorabi, Prof Christine Porter, Prof Gill Sugden, Prof Hans Haenlein and Prof Nasir Uddin Khan and from Pakistan, Prof Dr Attaur Rahman. The faculties of architecture, engineering and business management will start functioning from January 2014. Two important subjects, solar energy and accountancy, will also be taught.
This is an invaluable gift from Altaf Hussain to the students of Sindh, especially Karachi. The university will provide scholarships to not-so-well-off students through a special endowment fund created for this purpose. Hopefully this will encourage young people to use books and laptops rather than pistols and Kalashnikovs.