Senior Karachi doctor returns Tamgha-i-Imtiaz in protest over govt’s ‘ignoring’ healthcare professionals

Published September 3, 2021
This photo shows gastroenterologist Dr Saad Khalid Niaz. — Photo courtesy: South City Hospital website
This photo shows gastroenterologist Dr Saad Khalid Niaz. — Photo courtesy: South City Hospital website

KARACHI: Renowned gastroenterologist Dr Saad Khalid Niaz returned his Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, which he was awarded in 2013, to President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday.

The disappointed doctor did it in protest over the government’s “ignorant attitude” towards healthcare workers and professionals who laid down their lives to save hundreds of thousands of patients during the coronavirus pandemic, but were denied their share of the recent civil awards offered by the government to different segments of society for their services.

He said he had formally dispatched his Tamgha-i-Imtiaz back to the government of Pakistan for its “failure” to honour the services and dedication of healthcare workers and professionals, many of whom laid down their lives to serve the ailing humanity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In a letter to President Dr Arif Alvi, I have returned my Tamgha-i-Imtiaz in protest,” Dr Niaz told Dawn. “[It] appears that the government is not willing to honour the services and efforts of healthcare fraternity during the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 200 healthcare workers have so far died due to Covid-19 in Pakistan but only two, out of 126 civil award recipients, were doctors this year, which is extremely disappointing.”

President Dr Alvi had announced the Pakistan Civil Awards for 126 meritorious people, including foreign nationals, in recognition of their services in different fields of life on Aug 14, 2021. There were, however, only two medical professionals in the list, whose names were forwarded from Sindh.

In protest, Dr Niaz, who was also awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz by then president Asif Ali Zardari in 2013 for his services in the field of advanced gastroenterology, announced relinquishing his civil award.

“If the healthcare professionals, workers and scientists who served tirelessly during the pandemic and even sacrificed their lives, are not honoured, I have no other choice left but to return my civil award back to the government,” he said. “I feel extremely disappointed that despite requesting you and those suggested by you, there has been no response or action from the government’s side, further vindicating my stance that medical fraternity’s efforts and sacrifices against menace of Covid-19 were sadly and disappointingly ignored in the recently announced presidential awards.”

He said that over 200 healthcare professionals, including doctors, paramedics and nurses lost their lives during the last 18 months while serving Covid-19 patients, but nobody cared to recognise their services for the country and suffering humanity.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2021

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