THE tale I tell is not as exciting as that of The Tailor of Panama, John Le Carre’s brilliant denunciation of hypocritical diplomacy, political opportunism, and exploitative journalism.
It is the tale of a tailor of Karachi, who died in a Karachi hospital. He was not shot by terrorists, he was not the victim of a political party, he was not blown up by suicide bombers, those self-employed killers who kill in the name of God.
The story of Fayyaz Fida Hussain, a tailor of Karachi, citizen of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, was related to me last week by one of his customers, caring young Samar Shahid.
Fayyaz, married with four children, in his mid-30s, a fit and healthy man, borrowed small sums of money from a few of his customers and put the collected amount towards the ‘pagri’ and rent of a new shop in the ‘khadda’ market in DHA. It took him about a month to make a Rs.20,000 or so net profit and he started to pay back his debts (as he claimed, firstly to the bad tempered creditors!) and he also invested in a motorcycle.
On March 20, as he was travelling home to Korangi. he had the misfortune to be on the same side of the road as two speeding water tankers. He was hit by one tanker, knocked off his motorbike, and in the process his right leg was severed around the mid-calf area, and his left leg severely injured.
His family rushed him to the casualty department of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, where the doctors refused to treat him. Why? They then went all the way to a clinic in Nazimabad where they were asked to pay Rs.150,000 before he could be even seen by a doctor. They moved on to the Civil Hospital, arriving there at 0230 (March 21). They waited until 1030 hours for a doctor to come and examine the patient. He was then taken into emergency surgery and both his legs were amputated below the knee. The family was told that nothing could be done to save the injured leg.
Samar found out about Fayyaz’s accident and subsequent treatment on Friday March 24 and she and her mother went to the Civil Hospital to see him. She was rather agitated about the state of the hospital and its sanitary conditions, but what did encourage her was the tailor’s enthusiasm for life and his splendid spirit as he said to them, “Baji merey haath salamaat hain, tau kya howa agar paon chaley gaey, aur aab zalzalay kay baad plastic ki tangain bhee lugh jatee hain” (My hands are okay, who cares if I have no legs, and now, post-earthquake, one can even get plastic legs). It was humbling and strengthening, she said, to hear him say that despite the fact that for four days he had been in agony. That same night, when his pain was excruciating, his attendant went to the doctor on duty and requested him to come and take a look at Fayyaz. The doctor’s reply was: “Main TV deekh raha hoon, khabardaar dobara darwaza khat-khataya” (I’m watching television, dont you dare knock on my door again!).
The next morning, Samar and her mother, in consultation with a friend, decided to move him to Liaquat National Hospital. Just getting him down from the general ward to the Edhi ambulance was an ordeal as the Civil Hospital is not equipped with even a stretcher. The two were appalled and infuriated that a hospital which is supposed to save lives does not even have a stretcher available.
To cut a long and painful story short, said Samar, Fayyaz died ten days later, in agony, as gaseous gangrene slowly spread to his organs. Further amputation was out of the question. After days of negligence on the part of the Civil Hospital’s medical staff, with his vital signs shutting down through septicaemic shock his body could not take the necessary anaesthesia.
For his family, it has been a constant battle — from the tanker-wallahs who offered them the princely sum of Rs.30,000 telling them that they had killed two people the previous month and paid their families Rs.30,000 each. (“They accepted that amount so why can’t you?”), to the corrupt policemen of the area, to Fayyaz’s greedy relations, down to some of his horrid customers who plundered his shop and even stole his fans claiming they were theirs. This last lot are well-heeled residents of the ‘posh’ Defence Housing Authority area.
However, said Samar, amidst all the misery, it was gratifying to note that there are a few honest policemen around, who have their hearts in the right place, feel for the people and have a sense of duty. One of them is her husband, Assistant Superintendent of Police Omar Shahid Hamid, who did his best, and went out his way to try to obtain for the bereaved widow and her children the best financial compensation possible. He managed to get an undertaking from the tanker people that they would pay Rs.120,000. An FIR was filed on April 4, and the family has been told by the police that there will be a court hearing, but so far nothing has happened. They wait on. They continue to wage their uphill battle.
As young Samar said, one man’s death (and there must be hundreds of such tragedies occurring each day) would not have taken place had this country doctors who knew and did their jobs. The tailor’s life could have been saved.
To end, Copper Omar is an LLM from the University College, London, and is the son of Shahid Hamid, a good, honest and efficient civil servant who, when managing director of the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation, was shot dead in July 1997 as he drove out of his Karachi house by killers belonging to one of our political parties. One murderer has been picked up and is in jail. Five courts, including the Supreme Court, have heard the case but the man remains unpunished. The latest news is that those once again empowered have come to the man’s rescue and a mercy petition is being processed.