In India’s darkest hour, there is always that glow of hope

By Jawed Naqvi

FIRST things first. Let me celebrate the unrelentingly secular core of the Indian media, led by the younger journalists like Nalin Mehta and Shai Venkatraman of Star News and, of course, the more seasoned campaigners like Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt and many, many journalists of Hindi and vernacular newspapers, whose courageous and timely reporting of the riots in Gujarat actually, truly helped save hundreds of lives.

This when the Indian state was calmly briefing the unusually attentive parliament on the bold steps by the finance minister to mend the country’s economy, even while massacres were under way in Gujarat at full throttle. Budgets are meant to be discarded by the opposition when it chooses and used to bring down governments, not to distract parliament from urgent fire-fighting when the country is aflame.

President Pervez Musharraf must note that Star News has been banned in Gujarat and is being intimidated by powerful political lobbies over predictable allegations of spreading canards. That’s exactly what he did too. Is it one rare issue on which India and Pakistan agree, since you both can’t be right? Or is that possible, and I am wrong? Try and lift the ban on Indian TV channels, if you haven’t already done that, and see for yourself the functioning of India’s news media in its hour of need. Don’t be too offended if you find some journalists or politician making communal noises. The overwhelming majority, as proved by the coverage of Gujarat, is secular and seems to believe in fair reporting, and also, I believe, in India-Pakistan amity.

The next thing we have to do in this hour of raging madness is to plaster the Indian police and officials, which we shall do in a moment, with the incontrovertible observations of people who, let’s say, would count for their credibility. These are the commissions of inquiry that probed some major anti-minority riots in India. Hear them out for yourselves and decide if the charges by Star News and others regarding possible police and state connivance in the pogroms in Gujarat are rooted in history or not.

In a report on anti-minority bias in the Indian police, Communalism Combat, a leading rights group based in Mumbai, has come up with the following vignettes from history. Sample them:

“The response of police to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims, was cynical and utterly indifferent. On occasions, the response was that they were unable to leave the appointed post; on others, the attitude was that one Muslim killed was one Muslim less...Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an in-built bias against the Muslims which was evident in their treatment of the suspected Muslims and Muslim victims of riots.

“The treatment given was harsh and brutal and, on occasions, bordering on the inhuman...The bias of policemen was seen in the active connivance of police constables with the rioting Hindu mobs, on occasions, with their adopting the role of passive on-lookers on occasions, and, finally, their lack of enthusiasm in registering offences against Hindus even when the accused was clearly identified and post-haste classifying the cases in ‘A’ (True but not detected) summary”. — Report of the Justice B. N. Srikrishna Commission on the Mumbai riots of 1992-1993.

“This commission of inquiry has cited more than half a dozen instances where Muslim religious places adjoining police lines or police stations were attacked or damaged. The argument advanced by the police officers that because they were busy quelling riots at various other places, these police stations were shorn of adequate strength and hence these attacks on religious places could not be punished, did not impress the Commission. It has made this observation because not a single case of damage to a Hindu place of worship near a police station was reported to the Commission.” — Report of the Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission on the Ahmedabad riots of 1969

“The working of the Special Investigation Squad is a study in communal discrimination. The officers of the squad systematically set about implicating as many Muslims and exculpating as many Hindus as possible irrespective of whether they were innocent or guilty. Cases of many Hindus belonging to the Shiv Sena, Rashtriya Utsav Mandal (an extension of the local branch of the Jana Sangh) were wrongly classified as ‘A’ category and investigations closed and no proper investigation was undertaken into several complaints of murders of Muslims and arson of their property.

“No investigation was conducted into the composition and activities of Hindu communal and allegedly communal organizations operating in Bhiwandi but only in respect of Muslim communal and allegedly communal organizations. Deputy superintendent of police S.P. Saraf held private conferences and discussions with several leaders of Hindu organizations including many who were implicated by Muslims in offences of arson and murder.”— Report of the Justice D.P. Madon Commission on the Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad of 1970

“The evidence of the deputy SP says that while on patrol duty he had to curb many among his rank and file who could not restrain themselves when they met Muslims on the road. Similar evidence was given by the sub-collector and other witnesses who have testified saying that while chasing away some Muslims many policemen yelled at them to go to Pakistan. At Mattambaram one or two of them got into the mosque and besides beating Usmankutty Haji, a very respectable person, broke the tube-light and chandeliers in the mosque. There is nothing to show that there was any justification for this action...

“So far as the minorities are concerned, it is the feeling among them that they are not getting justice, that they are discriminated against in the matter of appointments in the Public Services, that they do not get equal protection of the law and that their religion is in danger, that prompts them to rally around religious organizations of their own. It is of the greatest importance that appropriate steps are taken by the government to remove the cause for such feelings in the minorities. There is much truth in saying that if you want peace you must work justice.” — Report of the Justice Joseph Vithyathil Commission on the Tellicherry riots, 1971

“The riots occurred broadly on account of the total passivity, callousness and indifference of the police in the matter of controlling the situation and protecting the people of the Sikh community. ... Several instances have come to be narrated where police personnel were found marching behind or mingled in the crowd. Since they did not make any attempt to stop the mob from indulging in criminal acts, an inference has been drawn that they were part of the mob and had the common intention and purpose. ... The Commission was shocked to find that there were incidents where the police wanted clear and definite allegations against the anti-social elements in different localities to be dropped out while recording FIRs.” — Report of the J. Ranganath Misra Commission on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi.

Finally, another very serious matter: the collusion between Hindu and Muslim extremists that has been an under-reported feature of communalism in India. Two days into the riots in Gujarat, an American diplomat wanted to know my take on the orgy of bloodletting in the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. I said we urgently needed someone like Pakistan’s Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider to fix the festering problem of India. My diplomat friend said I was dreaming. I said indeed I was.

Lest there be any doubt, I had said what I said to the diplomat with the courage of my conviction such as it is. Moinuddin Haider has put the Jamaat-i-Islami and other assorted fundamentalist groups behind the bars in Pakistan. They are all roaming free in India with state connivance. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, which was created in 1925 to target Indian Muslims, is the best ally of Jamaat-i-Islami. After 50 years of high- yield collusion in independent India between the rabid RSS and the mediaeval Muslmim fundamentalists, a kind of unity in obscurantism has been forged, made stronger when Indira Gandhi, in a bad miscalculation which she would always regret, put them both in the same jail during the 1975-77 emergency rule. Contrary to the common belief, see how similar the Hindu-Muslim obscurantists both think alike.

Said RSS boss Guru Golawalkar in his widely-quoted book We, Our Nation Defined, published in 1930: “Muslims are born in this land, no doubt... but are they true to its salt? No! Together with the change in their faith, gone is the spirit of love and devotion for the nation. Muslims may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizens rights.”

What did Maulana Maudoodi of the Jamaat-i-Islami have to say on the subject? “I want the establishment of God’s kingdom in Pakistan. If India becomes a Hindu Rashtra and Muslims are treated as second-class citizens, there is nothing wrong. Muslims of India should accept the status of second class citizens.”

The equation suits the Indian state, like any other state an opportunist, calculating entity. Every time there is a riot the so-called Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid jumps into the headlines, threatening to go on fast, or to lead an agitation to meet the prime minister, all in the defence of Indian Muslims. Incidentally, he is the same Shahi Imam who, by raising the demand to retain mediaeval divorce laws among Indian Muslims, gave a handy issue to Hindu communalism to use it as a counterpoint to their temple agenda. People like the Shahi Imam, close allies of the perpetually communal state apparatus, gain from incidents like the Gujarat riots. They are as culpable as the Hindu rightwing in keeping the embers of fanaticism glowing.

Police force with a local touch

By Siddiq Baluch

BALOCHISTAN is known for tribal conflicts and clashes, some of which are arranged but others are real and engineered by vested interests. Some tribal elders use these conflicts for advancing their petty personal interests. There are many clan conflicts, mainly within the tribes. Important ones are from the Bugti and Achakzai clans that have left many dead and homeless.

However, it was a dream that Balochistan with its diverse tribal and ethnic backgrounds will ever have a disciplined and efficient police force capable of handling complicated issues of law and order, maintenance of public peace, ensure supremacy of law and regaining the trust and confidence of the people in a broader sense.

The Balochistan police had earlier drawn its main strength of force from Punjab since the One Unit days. The recruitment areas remained confined to Northern Punjab, mainly to the Potohar region, from where the police force was recruited. It followed the pattern of the Sindh police, to say the least.

With the passage of time, the provincial government did encourage the local people to join the disciplined forces, from the army to the police, besides the Levies. The encouragement was in form of incentives and motivation and, finally, it paid dividends to society in general.

Last week the governor inspected the passing-out parade of Police Training School, Quetta. Some 877 constables took part in the parade, 703 being police constables, 51 from the Lower Course, 47 from Intermediate Course and 76 from Levies, popularly known as rural police.

For the first time, the police department did the large-scale recruitment on merit. Of the 7,000 candidates who appeared, only 800 were selected. A DIG, assisted by two SPs, did the recruitment, granting no relaxation to anyone. It was for the first time that there was no compromise on merit while making recruitments. The team visited all the districts and held interviews and tests.

The passing-out parade itself was a proof of the quality of training imparted to the recruits and the level of their understanding about their future challenges. The recruits performed A-Class drill matching the standards of the army, PT show, karate, commando action by different groups and units of the police force.

The display pertained to frustrating a ‘kidnapping for ransom’ drama, hostage-taking and releasing the captive by ‘killing the culprits’, scaling walls of six feet and nine feet height without any help, ‘knocking down enemy in surprise attack.’ ‘night shooting’, ‘firing while blind-folded’, sharp shooters hitting precise targets, frustrating ambush on a police vehicle, VVIP protection skills and other demonstrations.

All the demonstrations were highly impressive and liked by the people in general. The officers themselves demonstrated the skill of backfire, hitting the precise targets in an impressive manner.

The drill did send a clear message that Balochistan is capable of handling the intricate problem of law and order by its own force if given proper training by qualified instructors. The provincial government has recently allocated Rs247 million for raising a new force, presumably for providing security cover to foreign investors in the energy sector.

According to some details available, the government will recruit 2,500 people for the new force and give training to provide the specialized service of security cover to vital oil and gas installation and, thereby, frustrate all attempts to sabotage the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas in the province.

The Bijarani tribal elders held their meeting in Kohlu and offered to provide the necessary manpower for recruitment. However, the son of the late guerilla commander Sher Mohammad Marri, known as General Sheroff during the 1962 upsurge, did oppose the move. He gave no reason for his opposition to raising the new force.

People have, however, suggested that instead of raising a new police force the existing one should be strengthened by raising its number and training it to deal with the problem. If police force is strengthened, it can relieve the civil armed forces from their secondary duty of checking smuggling. The civil armed forces are criticized for their unfair handling of the problem. “Everyone is treated as a smuggler or a bad character at the checkposts by the CAF personnel,” a former MNA told Dawn.

Fashion statements

IT’S not often that you get to a seminar that is even mildly interesting. Most of the time, you end up seeing the same speakers — your usual assortment of retired ambassadors, generals, and ‘eminent/senior’ journalists or columnists — who love the sound of their own voice and hold forth endlessly.

However, a half-a-day-long seminar organized by the British Council and the Textile Institute of Pakistan this past Wednesday sounded quite interesting since it was on fashion and fabrics and had not your usual speakers. Representatives from the textile industry along with a couple of well-known designers and a teacher were invited. The turnout was quite good with several students showing up. In fact, there were so many students that seats in the last two rows were essentially being ‘recycled’ every ten minutes or so, with those sitting on them being ushered out — though not all that silently — and others being brought in.

In any case, the discussion, especially between the designers and the industry, was quite lively and interesting. Divided into two sessions, the seminar first had Maheen Khan, dressed in an elegant/minimalist mauve outfit, talking about the problems designers faced in a market like Pakistan’s. One of her main complaints, directed at the mills, was that it was often difficult for designers to find good fabric. Since, she said, this was basic to any garment, a lack of quality or even quantity meant that designers often found it hard to create what they ideally had in mind. Farooq Sumar, head of his own textile company and a representative of the National Textile Association, was next and spoke quite bluntly about what, according to him, were the shortcomings of Pakistani textile designers.

“Our markets simply aren’t that deep enough. There isn’t enough demand locally for us to justify making fabric on the scale that the designers would want us to produce,” Mr Sumar told the audience. He then went on to say that India had a huge middle class, some 300 million strong, and that was why they had so many varieties of weaves, fabrics and colours. Unfortunately, the market for good quality fabric, he said, was limited to only the larger urban centres in Pakistan and designers should realize this.

On a lighter note, Mr Sumar’s remark (in giving another reason why textile firms do not produce fabric in the quantities designers would want them to) that “no self-effacing woman” would want to wear in public a print that dozens of other women wore got a quick response from the panelists, especially from Indus Valley instructor Shenaz Ismail who immediately said that she wore such prints all the time.

Ms Ismail spoke later of her experiences saying that she often found it a bit awkward telling new students that their first design was not as good as they thought it was, and that the only way to really improve it was not to put a different interpretation on it but to go back to the drawing board and revise it.

One got the sense that there was some tension between the designers and the textile industry. Mr Sumar said quite publicly that he was disappointed with teaching institutions because they didn’t take the industry’s offer for internships seriously. Asiah Samad, a designer working with a textiles company, said that there were many times when dealers (those selling the fabric) would come and ask designers to change a pattern or the colour, telling them that otherwise it won’t be sold in the market. Rizwan Beyg told the audience that unfortunately the designers had no forum where they could bring to the industry’s or public attention the problems they faced. However, after the speeches were over, he was asked by a journalist why was it that fashion designers never raised these issues in the print media other than trying to get coverage for their shows.


What could be worse than talking on the mobile phone while driving? Well, messaging — or ‘texting’ — on your mobile phone and driving. Many countries have banned motorists from talking on their phones while on the wheel. The reason is that this obviously distracts the person from driving carefully and endangers the property and life of other road users.

How many of us have seen annoying motorists driving right in the middle of the road, half in your lane, half in theirs, and not budging despite several horns. And then when you finally try to overtake them, usually from the wrong side, you find that they are busy talking on the phone. Well, why can’t they stop the car by the side, and then talk instead of meandering along the road as a potential traffic hazard.

The advent of technology, however, has raised this to a new level, with people now even sending SMS text messages on their mobile phones while driving. This means using your phone’s keypad to type out whole sentences, before punching in the number to send them. All this requires periodically looking down — since the mobile is in your hand — and can make for an extremely distracted driver.

All of you have been warned: stay well away from such drivers.


Karachiites wanting to watch some excellent movies on big screen have something to look forward to every weekend, at least in the month of March. The Karachi Arts and Theatre Society (KATS) has launched a movie club and movies like the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s have already been shown. I went to this one and the screen was quite big, the picture quality and resolution quite good and the sound very crisp and clear.

The films are shown at their premises in Clifton, which can be approached from the road that leads to The Point. One has to bear right after the Do Talwar roundabout — this is Shahrah-e-Iran — and take a right turn just past the Italian Consulate (the Iranian Consulate would be on the left as one takes this turn) and into the lane that goes to Aunty Park. They apparently have a sign on the right by a gate where the movies are shown, every Friday and Saturday, at 9 pm. This past weekend Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds and The Hustler starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason were shown.

Movie buffs will be able to watch the following films in March during each weekend: Those Magnificent Men And Their Flying Machines on Mar 8; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on the 9th; The Great Escape on Mar 15; Cat On A Hot Tin Roof on the 16th: What’s Up Doc? on Mar 22; Doctor Zhivago on the 23rd; Spartacus on Mar 29 and The Godfather on the 30th.

Those interested in watching such these splendid films should call KATS at 5878661-2.

Pedestrians in Saddar, beware

If you are alone and passing through Saddar — i.e. the entire belt around Abdullah Haroon Road, and from the Paradise Shopping Centre signal towards St Joseph’s College — don’t stop to listen to anyone calling for attention.

A colleague says that it’s quite likely that this is a trap laid by a group of petty thieves to rob pedestrians. She says there might be more than one such group but people walking through this very busy area should be alert. The modus operandi is usually the same. You are on your way and suddenly somebody calls you from behind ‘Suneeay, woh aap ko bula rahay hain’ or ‘Aap ne shaid pehchana nahin’ or something like that.

Your normal reaction to this would be to turn back and see who is calling you. If you make the mistake of going up to the person, you are in trouble, she says. Either you could be grabbed by the arm, taken to a bylane and robbed at gunpoint, or a group would suddenly surround you right there and rob you in front of everyone. Of course, in this very busy city of ours no one comes to help so you really have to be careful and fend for yourself. People walking alone are usually targeted so it’s a good idea to have a companion.

Incidentally, the CIA centre is quite close by as is the Preedy police station. So much for crime prevention. —By Karachian

Baby Moin is crying

By A. B. S. Jafri

IS ANYBODY listening? This is an urgent inquiry, addressed to Naimatullah Khan, the Honourable Nazim of this Islamic Republic’s largest city, Karachi. Can you, Sir, hear the crying of the child that drowned in an open gutter manhole on Friday morning? I can. Indeed the shrieking keeps echoing in my ear all the time. How long I shall go on hearing that agonized innocent sobbing, I cannot tell.

It keeps me worrying about other children in the city. There is not a locality that does not have some gaping gutter manholes. You may recall many such incidents in the past. Infant Moin, a mere 18-month old, was not the first child to drown in an open manhole. Alas, there is little to sustain the wish that little Moin be the last of our children to be washed away for ever in a gutter.

Do you, Sir, hear the moans of Baby Moin’s distraught mother? I can. Can you see the tears in her forlorn eyes? I can. My ears are no stranger to this kind of wailing of mothers. I have heard the moan of many mothers bereaved in circumstances more or less similar. Can you imagine the crestfallen face of Baby Moin’s taxi-driver father? I can. He suffers in silence as fathers are wont to. As he waits at the red signals, his thoughts rush back to the smiling innocent face that made his homecoming such a joy.

Think, Sir, of the uncontainable sorrow of little Moin’s boyish brother Waseem. Imagine the storm raging inside his innocent heart. How would the elder brother ever forget that little Moin slipped out of his hands to disappear for ever in an open gutter manhole? How is Waseem to console his aching heart? He has lost a play-mate, a darling of a doll. Moin’s half-spoken words ring in Waseem’s ear. Can you hear this, respected City Nazim?

No doubt, all of us come from him and shall go to him. Even so life, His gift, is worth saving — all life. Life of human beings, beasts, vegetation. Loss of life is understandable. Not the destruction of life. Moin did not die. His life was destroyed. It could be saved if the danger was taken care of and removed. Since the removable danger was not removed, those whose duty it was to remove it, must take some blame, some responsibility. This question is important, if an earnest effort is to be made to prevent a replay of this ghastly saga.

As our elected City Government’s head you have been in office for some not inconsiderable time. About time, now your elected government took a measure of the countless things in this city’s life that need urgent attention and action. The most intolerably hideous menace to clean living is the absence of sanitation. There is hardly a gutter in this city of 14 million people that is not in appalling disrepair. There is hardly a street in which the underground gutters are not gushing like an endless line of fountains of sullage and stink. The citizens of Karachi have yet to hear you speak a word, if only to suggest this appalling state of affairs is noted. Have you, Sir, ever spoken in public about the gushing gutters? Many months ago, Governor Soomro happened to be in some spot like the Data Nagri where little Moin departed from this world via and open manhole. He spoke about this problem. Then, he forgot all about it. Admittedly it is not the pleasantest of things in Karachi’s life to remember.

An elected Nazim is in a qualitatively different slot. Unlike the governor, the Nazim is answerable to the citizens. Among them the parents and the brother of the little Moin of Data Nagri. It will be noted that Data Nagri’s open gutter manhole is not that shanty town’s exclusive privilege. Every locality has its share of this menace to life. There are so many and multiplying simply because nobody has ever thought of doing something about them.

Why children in poorer habitations are more likely to be swallowed up by open manholes is not difficult to see. Because there are no safe playing places for them. Why poorer children are more ominously exposed to these dangers is because they live in small homes. They have only their streets for playing spaces. We hear so much of talk, all of it so far inane, about parks for this city, squatting uncomfortably on the edges of the Thar desert. It is already more than a decade that the city has been hearing of a central park where old Sabzi Mandi was.

Moin’s death should make you, our Honourable City Nazim, to think afresh on the idea of clean, open spaces in this sprawling city. In this respect, a higher priority ought to go to the poorer localities. It would be easier to do this because projects to provide small open spaces in these neglected townships would be easier to develop, easier to manage, at affordable expense.

Millions in this city would look forward to an acknowledgment of this lamentation from you, our elected Honourable City Nazim.

And Bush is an Honourable man

WE received the following lines from Mr Raza Iqbal Bhutta from Multan Road the other day. I leave a critical appraisal of his poetry to you and present them here as received.

Mr Bhutta begins:

America is a civilized nation

And Bush is an Honourable man

His forefathers discovered America

And obliterated the Red Indians

But America is a civilized nation

And Bush is an Honourable man

His forefathers invaded the west coast of Africa

And enslaved thousands of men, women and children

They took them to America to till their lands

And fight their wars

For America is a civilized nation

And Bush is an Honourable man

Their forefathers fought the English for independence

And they were freedom fighters, not terrorists

For America is a civilized nation

And Bush is an Honourable man

Their forefathers made mass-destruction atom bombs

And dropped the toys on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

For America is a civilized nation

And Bush is an Honourable man

Their forefathers invaded Vietnam

And killed thousands of innocent men, women and children

But America is a civilized nation

And Bush is an Honourable man

His father is also an honourable man

He searched for mass destruction weapons in Iraq

And killed millions of children in the process

But both of them are Honourable men

And America is a civilized nation.

* * * * * * * *

WOULD you like to go back a bit in time with me, say, fifty-five years ago? I have old files of The Pakistan Times which I keep reading from time to time and I find them very interesting.

Now, on February 9, 1947, the paper published a brief report on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy semi-final between Baroda and Hyderabad (Deccan). We are told that Baroda, batting first, were 284 for five at stumps. Batsmen not out at the crease were the ‘Yuvrajah’ of Baroda (54) and a certain Mr Vichara on 28.

Weekend cricket matches used to be extensively reported in this exciting day — barely six months before the British transfer of power to India and Pakistan. On February 11, the headline that day read: “Aitchison beat universal in exciting match.” But the report says: “When stumps were drawn, they (Universal) were only seven runs behind Aitchison, having gathered 134 runs for the loss of only one wicket.

Abbreviated scores: Aitchison (191) and 171 for four declared. Universal 222 and 134 for one. The aggregate for Aitchison was 362 in the two innings which Universal responded with 356 — a shortfall of just six runs. So in my view, the headline should have read “Aitchison and Universal in exciting draw.” The main scorers were Inayat Khan who retired with an even hundred which Harcharan Singh hit 86 for the Aitchisonians in the second innings.

I wonder where is (or was) Harcharan Singh. If alive, he should be around 70-75 today. Not very old, surely. For all I know, he might be still around somewhere in India.

The league match was, as we call it, the lead story of the paper on its sports page.

Then, two days later on February 12, we are told that Baroda have after all beaten Hyderabad in the semi-final by nine wickets of the Ranji Trophy tournament, after an hour’s play in Baroda. When the winning hit was made, the Yuvrajah Saheb and SVG Pawar were at the wicket with 26 and 12 runs to their credit. I don’t suppose day-to-day coverage was possible in those days of tension.

Was the ISI born before independence? A news item in The Pakistan Times on February 14, 1947, reported:

“Air Vice-Marshal Sir Thomas Elmhirst, formerly Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Intelligence) at the Air Ministry, has been appointed to a newly-created post, that of Chief of Inter-Services Administration with the Armed Forces Headquarters, India with the rank of Air Marshal....” Now was the Inter-Services Administration precursor of the ISI? I have a friend who was formerly with the PAF. He may be able to throw some light on it.

* * * * * * *

I HAD reached this point when I received the following complaint against the Punjab Institute of Cardiology from Prof Ziaur Rehman Khan of the Simple Modern English Research Centre. If the contents of this letter are only part-true, they require a serious inquiry at the highest level. Prof Khan wrote (abbreviated):

The situation prevailing at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), Lahore, that is a cause of grave concern to the relations of the patients who take them to the institute for delicate heart treatment, but confront sheer indifference and wrong diagnosis leading to death. The case in point is that of a seasoned Radio and TV artiste and a Pakistan Movement worker, Shamim Fatima, who had been a central character in Ashfaq Ahmad’s celebrated radio programme, Talqin Shah. This artiste had been under treatment at the institute for the last ten years, and the hospital met her medical needs quite well under the previous administration. However, when she tried to continue her treatment under the present administration, she met with a tragic end.

Shamim Fatima was last taken to the PIC’s emergency ward about two months earlier in a precarious condition. A senior doctor of the ward was requested to examine her and to have her urgently treated. He was very hesitant to attend to her. However, in his hesitation he applied his stethoscope to her chest and told her that she was suffering from bronchitis or chest infection, and nothing more. He suggested some antibiotics and advised her instant removal from the hospital for proper treatment by a physician elsewhere. Shamim Fatima went on taking antibiotics for a week to no good purpose. When, after a month or so, she again visited the PIC’s emergency ward at night in a worse condition, a young doctor there examined her cursorily and said loudly and repeatedly that she had chest infection, and there was no need for her to visit the hospital that was meant for heart diseases. The senor physician, in fact, in charge of the medical department, made ironical remarks on the patient and seconded the young doctor without examining her, and advised Shamim Fatima to be taken to some other hospital. The poor lady already had angina and related heart disease and was having severe chest pain. Later on January 28, she was again taken to the institute where it was found that all along these months she had been having swollen feet and legs and water had inundated her lungs and heart. Her treatment of bronchitis was entirely misplaced. Now for her actual disease some treatment was provided and then she was asked peremptorily to leave the PIC and to go elsewhere for blood transfusion which would, in any case, have caused her instant death when she had an abnormally extended heart.

In the above situation, when the PIC wanted to get rid of Shamim Fatima, it would have been more appropriate if she had been killed by euthanaisa.

Shamim Fatima was lastly taken to another hospital after being ejected from the PIC on January 28 where the attendant doctor pronounced her certain death on account of the previous treatment, yet he admitted her to the CCU where she died of cardiac arrest on January 30.

The following deficiencies in the treatment of the patients at the PIC, especially in the emergency ward, have been noted:

(a) When a patient enters the emergency ward, his chart or file for record and reference is not prepared. In this way, no record of his treatment is kept in a regular way.

(b) Senior doctors do not take pains to examine the patients in depth and leave it to the inexperienced young doctors to examine them and report. The findings of the young doctors are, in the main, followed by the seniors to the detriment of the patients.

(c) Medicines for the patients are written on loose slips that are thrown away. No record of the medicines is kept.

(d) Tests for the patients are suggested haphazardly and irregularly, and there is no tangible and dependable liaison between the doctors and the laboratories. As a result, the reports of the tests do not reach the central hall readily, and there is delay in proper treatment.

(e) The doctors generally behave very rudely with the patients, not considering the fact that the expensive equipment, facilities and space they are using is government-owned and provided with public funds or donations from the nation or from abroad. It is a shame to see patients and their attendants begging doctors and nurses for proper treatment.

If there is a rush of patients and the facilities for treatment are not enough at the hospital, steps can be taken to augment them. In no case should dereliction of duty and selfishness be allowed to send patients to their death before their time.

India goes back to the future

THE act of setting afire a train coach carrying ‘karsevaks’ (workers) of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) near Godhra station in the BJP-ruled state of Gujarat cannot be described as anything but a meticulously planned crime of monstrous proportions. The Indian Defence Minister, George Fernandes, and the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, have already described this gruesome incident in which 58 human beings, including women, children and old men, were torched to death as a premeditated act. But they did not say who planned this act and why. However, if one went by the deadly effect produced in the form of massacre of Muslims in Gujarat one does not have to look far for the hand behind the loathsome act. But then the question of why still remains to be answered. The carnage on the face of it looks justified if viewed as a reflex response of majority community to the torching of 58 Hindus presumably by a group of infuriated Muslims of Godhra. But then the Muslims of Godhra would be totally insane to have planned such a high profile massacre without knowing what its immediate repercussions would be on their Muslim brethren elsewhere in an India, which, over the last ten years at least, has become extremely conscious of its predominantly Hindu identity and has been asserting this identity by being highly oppressive towards the minorities.

If there existed a provocation for the Godhra act then it was a running provocation for the entire Muslim community of India as well as for the saner elements in the majority community (which certainly outnumber the extremist Hindus) over the Ayodhya issue and the threat of VHP to start building Ram Mandir from March 15. But then this controversy has been going on for the last almost a decade and it had already taken a toll of some 3,000 human beings when it was kicked off with the demolition of Babri Mosque in 1992 by the present Indian Interior Minister L.K. Advani and company. Therefore, there indeed was no immediate provocation for the Muslims of Godhra on this score to go berserk. And the story of some members of Muslim community having some altercation on the Godhra station with the VHP’s workers, pulling of emergency chain after five minutes of the train’s leaving the station and the attack on it by a large mob when the train stopped, sounds too irrational because you don’t go and burn people just because you had some five-minute altercation with them and then too those who are known to possess very strong retaliatory powers. This is not to say that there were no Muslims among the mob that committed the horrible crime. What is being hinted at here is that these Muslims were perhaps manipulated into doing something which they would never have done on their own and in their right senses and that the manipulation was done by those who perhaps could not swallow the ignominy of the recent electoral defeat in the five Indian states. This defeat had also robbed them of their political hold on the region where Ayodhya is located. They wanted to punish the Muslims for voting against the BJP and for that they wanted to engineer a justification which nobody could question.

In the past such incidents, even as provocative as the attack on the India Parliament, had been very quickly and without even waiting for evidence, blamed by New Delhi on the Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI. This time too New Delhi, if it had wanted to, could have done this and diverted the hostility of extremist Hindus towards India’s punching bag, Pakistan. But not only this was not done but the Gujarat Chief Minister went public immediately blaming the Muslims of Godhra for the carnage and provoking by implication the Hindu majority to go on an ethnic cleansing spree. And then, the central government waited three days before it decided to send the Army to the riot-torn areas of Gujarat. And interestingly again, it was only after three days of uninterrupted massacre of Muslims that the Indian government started talking about the alleged involvement of the ISI in the Godhra incident. So this time the ISI bogey was put to use only after the domestic purpose of the Godhra crime had been accomplished.

India, like Pakistan, too seems to have fallen into the bottomless pit of extremism. It is more unfortunate because it is happening in the world’s biggest democracy and in the name of democracy. The majority community, it seems, wants the minorities to give up their places of worship and abdicate their right to vote. What a shame! In Pakistan we blame the rise of religious extremism on the Army’s political pre-eminence and its Afghanistan and Kashmir agenda, which it had successfully projected as the national agenda all these years without asking the nation if it agrees with this agenda. In any case in Pakistan extremism was used only as a strategy by the Army to achieve its domestic and external agendas and now that it has decided to give up this strategy, things are falling in their places without much trouble. But what has pushed India into this horrendous trap? Does it have anything to do with the majority community’s failure to forget India’s Muslim millennium even after 400 years of its disappearance? Has the recent world-wide persecution of Muslims in the name of controlling international terrorism emboldened the Indian majority community so much that it believes it can get way with blue murder and accomplish its own narrow agenda of getting rid of its Muslim community without the world making any hue and cry about it? Has the knowledge that today Pakistan too was down and out and was in no position to mobilize international opinion against the massacre of Indian Muslims added to the audacity of India’s majority community? But you cannot wish away 140 million Indian Muslims. They are there to stay. You simply cannot cleanse them all. Even Israel with all its fire power and American vetoes has not been able to wipe out from the face of the earth a handful of Palestinians in the 50 long years of its genocidal war. And what you are doing in your senseless pursuit of Hindu rather than Indian identity is only setting the stage for another partition of India.

In trying to destroy Muslim Pakistan you created one more Muslim country in 1971 in the shape of Bangladesh. And now in order to destroy your own Muslims perhaps you are creating conditions for a third independent Muslim country to emerge on the subcontinental map. —Onlooker


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