Advice, help and hypocrisy - Dr A Q Khan - Monday, July 19, 2010

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In some of my previous columns I had written about Bhopal (the place of my birth), the beautiful parks, lakes and forests and the respect and affection among the people. It is now 58 years since I left Bhopal for my new homeland–Pakistan–but that state, its natural beauty, my friends, my teachers are still as fresh in my memory today as the streets, markets, parks and restaurants of Karachi and Islamabad. Bhopalis are just as fond of their city as Lahoris and Karachiites are of Lahore and Karachi.

In Bhopal we had many famous literary figures and some of the humorous writers and poets were a treat to read and listen to in recitals. One of these was a poet by the name of Abdul Ahad Khan Takhallus. He once wrote that the easiest and cheapest thing is to offer advice or suggestions, whether the other person likes it or not and whether they are asked for or not. He went on to say that sometimes a well-wisher’s sweet words or advice are a welcome source of consolation.

When someone is sick, it is a tradition in our culture for visitors, friends and relatives to bombard that person with all kinds of advice on treatments and medicines. If the patient follows them, the chances are that both the ailment and the patient will leave the world simultaneously.

This reminds one of doctors and hakims, who demand payment before dispensing advice. Their fees depend on their qualifications, experience and, above all, reputation. Usually blood and urine tests and X-rays are prescribed immediately, and often unnecessarily. It is now common practice for laboratories carrying out these tests to be associated with the doctors. Very often medicines have to be purchased from specific chemists. Fees paid, tests carried out, consultancy done and medicine prescribed, all that is left is for the patient to hope that it all works.

When we started the enrichment plant at Kahuta, one of my senior colleagues, on deputation from a defence organisation, informed me that an accountant from his organisation had set up a nursing home in Rawalpindi. It also had a testing laboratory and he had hired a few doctors and was now minting money. By coincidence, one of my staff members was admitted there and I paid a visit to him. I was horrified to see how dirty the place was, with flies swarming all over the place. The next day I instructed our medical officer, Col Shamsul Hasan, to hire two big houses in F-8, some nursing staff and a few doctors to provide medical care to our staff. That was the beginning of our medical services. We then purchased a large plot of land from the CDA in G-9 for larger facilities. The task of building the hospital was entrusted to Brig Dr Riaz Ahmed Chowhan (later lieutenant general and surgeon general of the army).

The second groups of those who give expensive advice are lawyers, who are often accused of fleecing their clients on one pretext or another. Most people feel that they intentionally prolong cases and charge separately for each hearing in order to make more money. The fee depends on the individual lawyer’s reputation about winning cases and about having the “necessary connections.” Most senior lawyers hire junior lawyers or have interns to prepare the cases with all the proper references and criminal codes, while they examine the completed case and then argue it in court. If they lose the case, the client is encouraged and given hope that it will be won upon appeal. The client has no option but to go along, as by now he is in their firm grip. All that is left for him to do is put his faith in the Almighty and the judge. We all know that, as far as the fee is concerned, it is never according to the law–if there is such a thing. It usually comes in two parts–the official small amount and the larger amount under the table with no receipt. Recently, many scandals about “famous” lawyers have been reported. I personally know of a famous lawyer who asked one of my acquaintances, in my presence, to pay Rs2 million officially and Rs3 million unofficially into his London account. Fortunately for my acquaintance, an upright lawyer took his case and accepted Rs1 million only after he won the case for his client. The recent scandals concerning the Bank of Punjab and Haris Steel Mills have been an eye-opener to many.

Another category of people without scruples about lying or false promises (this time without charging fees) is that of politicians and national leaders. One is at a loss to understand how they manage to lie and cheat so blatantly and still manage to have a following. While doctors, pirs and lawyers do manage to hold out some hope for their patients and clients, political leaders have no such saving grace. Their policies often push the poor into committing suicide, as we can read in the papers every day, and all this when a democratic government is supposed to be the panacea for all evils. The decisions they take lack all consideration for the poor and give no consolation at all.

Allah Almighty has warned: “Every nation has its term and when its term comes, they cannot put it off an hour, nor yet advance it.” (7:34.) “Think not that Allah does not heed the deeds of the wrongdoers. He but gives them respite against a day when their eyes will fixedly stare in horror.” (14:42.) “Do the people of the towns feel secure against the coming of Our wrath by night while they are asleep, or else do they feel secure against its coming in broad daylight while they are playing (carefree); do they feel secure against the plan (chastisement) of Allah? But no one can feel secure from the plan (wrath) of Allah, except those doomed to ruin.” (7:97-99.) The worst “benefactors” are the World Bank and the IMF. Whoever accepts their advice gets choked with debts and becomes their slave forever.

I would like to stress here that I do not want to create the impression that all doctors, lawyers and politicians are cheats, deceitful, liars and blood-suckers. I personally know many fine, honest, competent and God-fearing ones who help the needy in all possible ways. Their noble deeds have gone a long way in securing the survival of the country. I am grateful to the many doctors, lawyers, hotel and restaurant owners and shopkeepers who have refused to receive any payment from me.

There are many human beings who do noble deeds, but the actual Dispenser is the Almighty. He has explained this in the Quran in simple terms. “When trouble touches a man, he cries unto Us (in all postures)–lying down, on his side, or sitting or standing. But when We have solved his trouble, he passes on his way as if he had never cried to Us for a trouble that had touched him. Thus do the deeds of the transgressors seem fair in their eyes.” (10:12.) No doubt, it is Allah Almighty who gives honour to whom He likes and ignominy to whom He wishes.

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