Shah Nawaz Mohal
WE’ve seen the abysmal apathy, in the matters of healthcare, time and again. The folks, who constitute the majority – 55 percent of the populace, earning less than 2 dollars per day were banished and relegated to the extreme fringes. And on those peripheries the ‘jaali’ (fake) doctors, unqualified hakeems and other quacks chisel away the paltry little they saved for a rainy day. For them illness meant suffering, both physical and financial. The mental agony was a deplorable add-on.
On the last eve of 2015, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif launched a health care scheme that will gradually address and subside the agonies and torments of the hapless masses. 9.1 billion rupees have been allocated for the project and in the first stage 1.2 million families will benefit from it. The project will ultimately cover all Islamabad, FATA and Balochistan and be completed gradually in two phases. For reasons known only to the Provincial governments of Sindh and KPK, both Provinces won’t be part of the programme. The politics, I must state, must not sully the schemes that need to be done, at all costs. But alas, politics, defined and understood universally as, the art of the possible, has become the art to make probable unacceptable in our land.
Healthcare in Pakistan has always remained relevant only for the selected few. The well-heeled and affluent enjoy the state-of-the-art, top-notch medical treatment available to them, both inside Pakistan and abroad. For them it’s a non-issue, and thus warrants little or no brooding at all. Things, unfortunately, are not that hunky-dory for those on the wrong side of spectrum. The previous governments took superficial measures to address this perennial malady, and because of such steps the wellbeing and health of needy and deprived masses remained abysmal.
The consequences of that sheer neglect are visible all over. The dilapidated infrastructure of hospitals, lack of basic facilities and the demarcation between those who can pay up and those who can not will soon vanish. All in all, 32 lakh families will be insured against all kind of diseases. Revolution and change, let us not forget, must be seen in acts done not words spoken and slogans yelled in a circus tent to gratify ignorant and nascent populace. PM Nawaz Sharif has once again proved that in order to mitigate the woes of a common man, government should first take stock of ground realities and then address the root cause.
Everyone of us must have heard the sad tale of someone selling his property to manage money to pay the health bills due. After the inauguration of the “PM’s National Health Programme” there is every reason to hope that our future won’t mimic our past and it won’t mirror the present we endure. The State Life Insurance Company (SLIC) and its representatives will reach out to those insured in their time of need and provide all the assistance that is needed.
I won’t agitate the readers with the statistics and facts and figures and graphs and charts and what not. You can find them in any daily newspaper published on 1st January, 2016.
What I do want to share in this column is something personal, something addled with pathos. As someone said beautifully, ‘theories divide us, stories unite us’. So, here is mine. We can debate the veracity of our theories later on. My father, a serving government servant, suffered from a heart attack last September, we rushed him to the PIMS, his main artery was clotted, and he was in dire need of a stent. Being a government servant he was entitled to free medical treatment, but we had to pay for the stent and the government will reimburse the money afterwards. We had some money in the bank, we gathered it and paid. And thank God the timely procedure saved my father’s life.
Now, let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine, the same happening to someone who hadn’t saved that much? Dare to feel a son whose father is on the operating table and there is nothing he could do. Nothing. Can you fathom the misery, the dread, the darkness he dwells in?
Yes, you can, provided you have some empathy and imagination left in you. I pray you do. I solemnly pray. PM Nawaz Sharif has been trusted by the ballot to steer Pakistan in the direction it has been destined for. And he is doing it with all his might and main.
Every now and then, from various podiums and pulpits, we hear the battle cry for ‘change’. These slogans are hollow and devoid of truth and volition. Now, for the first time “PM’s National Health Programme” has given something palpable, something tangible to the wretched of our land. The ‘real’ change is afoot, all you need to do is practice a little gumption. That’s it.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.