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The depths of degradation

December 22, 2002

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Sir Cowasjee Jehangir (1812-1878), civil engineer and master constructor of Bombay, was asked in 1847 by the British government to execute certain irrigation projects in Sindh.

He completed his work in 1850 and before he returned to Bombay, wishing to do good by the province of Sindh and recognizing the needs of its people, he secured a large acreage of land at Giddu Bandar on which he constructed a hospital for the mentally ill. In acknowledgement of the great philanthropist's gift, the grateful people of Sindh named it the Cowasjee Jehangir Mental Hospital.

In 1967, the psychiatrist, Dr Haider Ali Kazi, a kinsman of that erudite man Allama Kazi, was appointed by the government of Pakistan to head the hospital. In 1975, in keeping with the times, Dr Kazi arranged to have the hospital renamed as the Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Institute of Psychiatry. He served the hospital with the utmost devotion and capability, developing and improving its facilities, until he retired in 1999.

Thereafter, quite naturally, things began to deteriorate and the patients now suffer from want of a top class psychiatrist. Dr Kazi, with great justification, now laments the fact that neither the government nor the people of Sindh have bothered to do anything to ensure that the hospital is maintained and kept in adequate condition to be able to treat the many mentally afflicted souls of this neglected province.

Dr Kazi also relates how during his tenure he had no help from any quarter in his efforts to keep at bay the notorious land grabbers of Sindh - such as Jam Sadiq Ali, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's minister of housing and town planning in Sindh, and his Sindh health minister Katpar. These two did their best to get their hands on the hospital's land ostensibly for the purpose of constructing a low-cost housing colony.

Much later, when the MQM was created by Ziaul Haq and his men for their nefarious purposes, the party's rough and ready men did their best to grab it, ostensibly to build on it an Urdu university. The last serious attempt at grabbing was made under the governorship of Lt-General Moinuddin Haider by a famous hotelier and land developer of Hyderabad. To Dr Kazi's great credit he and his supporters in the medical field have managed to stave off all attacks and preserve the hospital land in toto.

In the second half of the 1990s, psychiatrist Prof Syed Haroon Ahmed, presuming (mistakenly) that Sir Cowasjee was one of my forefathers, approached me, seeking a donation from our family for the establishment by the members of the Pakistan Association for Mental Health of an Institute of Behavioural Sciences (IBS) in Karachi to treat the many mentally sick of the city and the province. Though Sir Cowasjee was no kinsman, he was a fellow Parsi and Zoroastrian, well known within the community. Knowing the many who suffer from mental problems (one expert has put it that out of our total population approximately 20 per cent are afflicted), my brothers, Cowasjee and Cyrus, and I, the trustees of the family Foundation, were the first to donate a substantial sum to the project.

At the opening ceremony of one of the structures, our national nuclear treasure, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, was strutting around looking highly important (as indeed he is judging from his collection of gold medals). I enquired from Dr Ahmed as to how he fitted into the organization and was told that the man wished to be a member and help in the collection of funds.

Early this month, traumatized and agitated trauma-healer Haroon Ahmed came and asked if I was on talking terms with Abdul Qadeer Khan. Unbelievably, he with a team of men had physically attacked the IBS in an attempt to take it over, and had filed a suit in the Sindh High Court (1232/02), he as plaintiff versus Haroon Ahmed and the Pakistan Association for Mental Health. No, I could not talk to the man, but who was Khan's lawyer? He turned out to be another doctor, this time a doctor of law, Farogh Naseem. Did I know him? Yes, I did.

Naseem is a member of the legal fraternity, has always opposed me, and is a great favourite of the land grabbers and law-breaking builders. Haroon showed me a copy of Khan's plaint. It opens up:

"The plaintiff is a national hero. He is singularly responsible for facilitating the requisition of nuclear technology for Pakistan, developing the 'enrichment of uranium plant' at Kahuta, and an atomic bomb for the country. He has also been the recipient of many awards, including the national awards of 'Nishan-i-Imtiaz' and 'Hilal-i-Imtiaz'. Apart from being a renowned scientist of international repute, the plaintiff is a philanthropist with many charitable projects to his credit.

"It is pertinent to point out that the plaintiff derives great respect and trust in society, with the result that many on his solo call richly contribute to any charitable endeavour."

The Pakistan Association for Mental Health, a voluntary association registered under the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance, 1981, through its president Dr Haroon Ahmed has in turn filed in the High Court of Sindh, Suit No.1259 against Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and others, from which I reproduce the following excerpt:

"On 10/12/2002, Dr A. Q. Khan, defendant No.1, who is only the patron of the IBS dispossessed the plaintiff, the allottee of the property where IBS is situated, in the manner outlined hereunder.

"Defendant No.1 entered the premises with armed men and in the company of his brother, Mr Qaiyum Khan, Mr S. M. Farooq, General (retired) Riaz Chowhan, Colonel (retired) Tariq-uz-Zafar, Colonel (retired) Arshad Anwer, Mr Hulail Naqvi and Mr Mushtaq Ahmed.

"It was the peak time for examination of patients. About forty patients were awaiting consultation. It is to be noted that patients suffering from mental disorders of various kinds are particularly vulnerable and susceptible to trauma when faced with a situation such as was created by defendant No.1, his companions, and the armed guards.

"The armed men accompanying defendant No.1 and his associates confronted the IBS security guards, pushed them aside and adopted positions in a somewhat dramatic battle order. A real law and order situation could have erupted. In order to protect the lives as well as the emotional stability of the patients, IBS doctors opted against confronting their assailants.

"Thereafter, defendant No.1 summoned the Honorary Associate Executive Director of IBS, Dr Mohammad Suleman, and informed him that IBS has been taken over and that there has been a change of administration. He was directed to leave and subsequently Colonel Tariq-uz-Zafar, who claimed to have been appointed Executive Director of IBS, forcibly herded the entire staff into a room and proclaimed the change of administration. He further stated that whoever wishes to continue may do so and those who do not may go.

"The entire episode severely traumatized and distressed the patients of IBS. The professional staff of IBS were also traumatized and all of them have since resigned.

"It is to be noted that the suit was submitted before this honourable court on 9/12/2002. The illegal action particularized above took place on 10/12/2002 after having forcibly and illegally dispossessed defendant No.2 and the governing body of IBS, defendant No.1 obtained an injunction on the basis of fraudulent misrepresentation in Suit No.1232 of 2002. It is submitted for the information of this honourable court that one member of the dispossessed governing body of IBS is a learned judge of this honourable court, Mr Justice Musheer Alam."

So far, the land and assets of the IBS are safe. The learned judge of the Sindh High Court, Qurban Ali Alvi, is seized of the matter. As it is subjudice, no comment is being made. However, I would urge those who administer all our schools and educational and health institutions which are funded by the people and possess grababble land, buildings and assets, to obtain copies from the court of the papers relating to these two suits so that they are apprised of the dangers that beset them.

On December 16, I received an e-mail from one of my regular correspondents on the subject of 'Renaming institutes - the next step'. A passage is reproduced:

"One can count at least 30 different institutes from major organizations to schools, colleges, commercial centres, hospitals, football grounds, roads, and even graveyards... that AQK managed to name after himself. The government's announcement to change the name of KRL to Institute of Industrial Control Systems was therefore received as a sensible and progressive act which in fact will do good to the institute as well as the individual. It is indeed a good beginning...".

The depth of our degradation is unfathomable.