Monday, August 6, 2012


By Rabia Ahmed Pakistan Today 07 August 2012

Politics brings out the mean streak in people, and a nasty, selfish streak it is. Take the Olympics for example.

In 1972 at Munich, in the then West Germany, terrorists belonging to the organisation ‘Black September’ broke into the Athletes’ village and took some of the Israeli contingent hostage. The standoff lasted several hours, leaving eleven hostages and a West German police officer dead. Five of the hostage takers also died.

Forty years later at a ceremony at the London 2012 Athletes’ village, the President of the (IOC) President Mr Jacques Rogge mentioned those events in a short speech, and led a moment of silence in memory of those who died in 1972. As well, the Israeli Olympic contingent wore black armbands at the otherwise festive opening ceremony of the games.

The many who condemned this commemoration, said that by reminding the world of divisive issues, such displays at the Olympics undermined the aims for which the games exist, of peace, friendship and respect, and a joint participation in the joy of sport. Obviously, if one team is allowed to use the Olympics as a political platform, others (some would say more deserving) ought to be granted the opportunity as well, because there is always another side to each coin, and many coins in the mint (displaced Palestinians, Burmese Muslims, the residents of Aleppo, the list goes on).

Besides, there are other, more appropriate platforms.

The Israeli contingent may have reminded the world, lest it forget, and the spirit of the Olympics suffered as a result, but the Israelis shot themselves in the foot and suffered most of all, because of their tasteless timing.

The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (Lahore)
Similarly, here in the Punjab, one Khwaja Asif of the PML(N) may be seen hopping around, an axe stuck through his bleeding foot as in the Urdu idiom, after accusing Imran Khan of ‘gambling away’ funds donated for the Shaukat Khanum Hospital.

At a press conference in Lahore, Khwaja Asif alleged that Imran Khan had used Zakat donations to make foreign investments which later failed, in the face of opposition from the hospital’s board of governors. He also made allegations, of nepotism at Shaukat Khanum.

He should have criticised Imran the leader of the PTI, not Imran the founder of the hospital, because the PTI Imran shoots his mouth too often, has an unfortunate predilection for khaki and a bit of a mullah streak, alas; but most people give him credit for a measure of integrity and few will or can criticise his greatest achievement, the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, in Lahore, all else notwithstanding.

Those allegations have since been responded to, and most properly relegated to the electioneering bin, as they should.

In a country where politicians switch allegiances with monotonous predictability, where few projects progress beyond the high level meeting stage, or if they do are rife with corrupt practice from the start, these accusations are definitely a bit rich, and malicious. Also, like with the Israelis at the Olympics, their timing is deliberately hurtful, with elections around the corner and the PTI gaining ground, and particularly because they have been made during Ramzan, when people open their purses wider than usual to give Zakat.

Pakistanis are generous in charity. Approximately half of Shaukat Khanum Hospital’s revenue is obtained from the services it offers. The rest of its costs are met by Zakat and charitable donations from all over the world. As a result of PML-N’s Khwaja Asif’s allegations, these donations may drop this year, with a subsequent drop in the hospital’s capacity to treat its patients. The ones really hurt therefore are not Imran and the PTI, but Shaukat Khanum Hospital’s poor and sick cancer patients. That is what our politicians do best, isn’t it? Hurt the poor.

Imran Khan began the hospital project as far back as 1989. It is a measure of his dedication that he has stuck unwaveringly with this project for more than twenty years. Now that the hospital has come into being, a beautiful, well administered hospital, staffed with qualified and dedicated personnel, it is comparable to other similar hospitals anywhere in the world.

The SKMCH, a cancer hospital, treats patients with a very high standard of care…free of charge if they are financially unable to pay, which is a large percentage of those seen. The poor and sick people of Pakistan, whose options would otherwise be limited to facilities provided by a government that couldn’t care less are indebted to Imran Khan for his dedication and perseverance in this cause.

Whatever lustre remained to the PML(N) has been dimmed by these remarks. For the discerning, this should go a long way towards helping them fill out that ballot paper come election time.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at

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