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A bit of positivism in our night

August 03, 2008

THE internet was a wonderful innovation — and it gets more effective, informative, interesting and entertaining as the years pass. On a couple of occasions each week I am amused as mail falls into my inbox from all sorts of people in all sorts of places.

For instance, last Thursday came a message which read:

“Over the years I have been reading your articles in Dawn newspaper. You are a very sarcastic person, full of negativism. Don’t you find anything positive to write about? Yes, Pakistan has its problems, but there is a way of expressing these problems. Not the way you do. In your last article you state (quoting some statistics) that 20 per cent of Pakistan’s population was mentally disturbed. I believe you are also included in that 20 per cent, if your sources are accurate.”

He continued: “I live in the United States now (since 1974), but I am thankful to Pakistan for providing me higher education for almost free. Similar education costs thousands of dollars here in the United States. Believe me, quality of higher education at an ‘average’ college or university in the United States is not much different from Pakistan. The only difference here probably is fancy black board, air conditioned class rooms [sic], fancy furniture, etc.”

It seems to me that he is one of the many who write in about their bodies being in the USA or wherever, but actually their souls remain firmly entrenched in Pakistan. My general answer to such beings is ‘Retrieve your soul quickly. Don’t endanger your body.’

Moaners and groaners are unlovable creatures, and we have far too many of them — though it has to be maintained that there is in present-day Pakistan much incentive to moan and to groan. However, I make valiant attempts to keep our moaners and groaners at arm’s length and have a plaque sitting on my desk which reads:

“Nothing drains energy more than moaning — or having to listen to a moaner. Your consciousness is highly responsive. If you project negativity to those around you, those same negative feelings will reflect back to affect you. You will be drained of vitality. Misery, like happiness, is contagious.” It is attributed to Dr Samuel Johnson.

A caring Parsi widow used to phone me regularly. Before she could start her list of woes she was told by me: ‘If someone has died, or there is a funeral I don’t want to know. If someone has been hospitalised, or broken a leg don’t tell me. Now, what can I do for you?’ It took time to get the message through but eventually the phone calls ceased.

So, rather than dwelling on political miseries, the tribulations of Fata and the entire Frontier region, the US and its running battle with the ISI (the latest story came in yesterday’s NYT — ‘US presses Pakistan on control of its spy agency’), let us return to happier times when stress was not a communicable prevalent disease.

During the era of the Empire Builders (rather than the breakers and shakers), over a century ago in the days when Sind was a commissioner’s province there was posted here an able commissioner by the name of Richmond Crawford. He cared for man and for beast. He acquired some two acres of land in Karachi and built a veterinary hospital. The grateful citizens named it after him and to this day it still stands as The Richmond Crawford Veterinary Hospital on Jinnah Road, opposite the Theosophical Society.

It was a sacrosanct area until the hordes invaded us in 1947. Since then all our wielders and seekers of power and pelf have carved into its grounds. There still remains to it, luckily, just under an acre. For the past 61 years it has run like a government hospital and was steadily declining. Now, with the vet in charge, Dr Abdul Wahab Bhutto, a good, caring and capable man, and the Sindh government secretary of livestock and fisheries, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, plus our chief secretary Fazlur Rahman, all of whom can hear the animals, the hospital is looking up. A caring winter Pakistani vet, Dr I.H. Kathio, who runs the Pittston Animal Hospital in Pennsylvania, visits regularly and donates valuable equipment.

Things will hopefully get better for our disgustingly treated animals — it was Mahatma Gandhi who famously once said that the level of a country’s civilisation can be gauged by its treatment of animals. Where does this leave Pakistan’s level of civilisation? The famous Brooke organisation, the largest animal welfare organisation in Pakistan, which has been in operation since 1991 has teams and field clinics in Lahore, Peshawar, Mardan, Multan and Gujranwala and is now coming to Karachi. Through its work with animals, it estimates that it has helped support the livelihoods of over a million and a half people of Pakistan who live in our poorest communities. It has reached out to over 300,000 working equines and bovines, plus sheep and goats, via its 92 treatment points.

A short word on Brooke and its origins: it was first established in 1934 by Lady Dorothy Brooke in Cairo for the benefit of the thousands of horses sold into a life of hard labour by the British Army cavalry regiments which left after the First World War. Similarly, Brooke in Pakistan was established in 1991 in Peshawar to help the plight of the thousands of equines used during the Afghan wars.

Brooke, through Major Mohammad Farooq Malik, its chief executive in Pakistan, has just signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sindh Livestock and Fisheries department, whereby Brooke will be given space in the hospital grounds to establish its own unit where it will do what it can towards helping working equines belonging to the under-privileged, caring for their health and husbandry, in Karachi and its surrounding areas. All treatment given will be free.

Most keen to see the Brooke set-up get going is the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) run by a small group of dedicated young girls who do what they can, against mighty odds, to help the suffering beasts of burden that grace Karachi’s crowded, grubby, uncared for streets. The co-founders are Mahera Omar and Maheen Zia. PAWS is a non-profit organisation that aims to create a more just and equitable relationship between humans and animals in Pakistan.

As Irfan Husain wrote in his column from abroad, printed in Dawn on July 23, “Such an initiative deserves our admiration and our support.”

arfc@cyber.net.pk