‘We may have left our homes but our heart and soul are still in Pakistan’

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Pakistan Kidney Centre. (Photo courtesy: Hospital Management)
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The Diabetes Centre. (Photo courtesy: Hospital Management)
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Dr. Asjad Hameed. (Photo courtesy: Hospital Management)
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Dr. Farook R A Farooki. (Photo courtesy: Hospital Management)
Updated 28 December 2018

‘We may have left our homes but our heart and soul are still in Pakistan’

  • Expatriates residing in the GCC look to pay back by contributing to the country’s health care sector
  • Have played a crucial role in promoting quality facilities over the years

DUBAI: Dr. Farook Rasheed A Farooki was 29 years old when he left his home in Muzaffarabad- Kashmir to settle for a life as a young doctor in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
That was 45 years ago.
Soon, with his hardwork and excellent reputation, he became a naturalized citizen of the Kingdom. However, he says, his love for Pakistan always kept him grounded.
He finally decided to take the leap when, along with other like-minded Pakistanis, he established a charity hospital for kidney patients and named it as the Pakistan Kidney Center.
“In 1969, I came to Jeddah to look for a better life and got a job in the Ministry of Health. I worked there for eight years and then started my own clinic as a family physician. I worked very hard in my adopted country. And in return , I got a lot of respect and love. I was able to give a good life to my family,” the 76--year-old father of two said.
But that was not enough for him. “I always felt that I have a loan to pay to my motherland, where I was born and where I was educated.”
Eventually, he and his friend, Dr. Khaleelur Rehman, decided to establish two charity health projects in Pakistan — the Pakistan Kidney Center and Heath Mobile Units. 
This was essential as Pakistan ranks eight in kidney diseases causing 20,000 deaths every year. Additionally, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is rapidly growing in Pakistan, too.
“There are very few facilities available in our country, especially on the mountainous region. Patients have to travel a long way to major cities which add to the cost of their treatment. So we decided to build our center on the Silk Route’s main highway from Islamabad to Abbotabad, which is called Muslimabad,” he said.
The Pakistan Kidney Center was established in April 2015. With 14 machines, the facility provides 35 dialysis sessions on a daily basis.
“We successfully started our OPD with 14 dialysis machines [which works in two shifts] to take care of around 40 of patient every day. We maintain the highest standards. All machines are busy round the clock, so much so that we are now considering to start the third shift of dialysis,” Dr. Farooki said.
He added that the construction and operational costs of the facility cost him nearly Rs200 million. “Around Rs75 million was gathered through personal donations of board members and rest came from friends and philanthropists in KSA. Our current running cost is Rs2 to 2.5 million per month, out of which 25 to 30 percent is generated by center revenue. Rest comes from donations,” he said.
He has set his sights on launching a Mobile Health Unit next. “In the mountainous parts of Pakistan, there are no hospitals, no OPD facilities, or even trained medical staff. Hence, the only way to provide medical care they deserve is to reach them with Mobile OPDs on a regular basis,” he said, adding that “our mobile units travel to far-flung areas holding camps, providing medicine, and creating awareness about the prevention of diseases.”
His impending age and logistic challenges haven’t discouraged Dr. Farooki from serving his motherland. “I knew it won’t be easy. But nothing can stop me to help my people. Allah has given me the opportunity to serve my homeland. And I will do it with the best of my abilities till my last breath,” he said.
Dr. Farooki is not alone. Several other Pakistani expatriates in the Gulf voiced similar aspirations. Dr. Asjad Hameed, a famous diabetologist in the the UAE, is another such example.
Early this year, Dr. Hameed and his friends realized their six-year long dream by establishing a world-class diabetes hospital near Islamabad which they named The Diabetes Center.
Dr. Hameed, 51, has been working on curbing the nationwide epidemic of diabetes in Pakistan for more than a decade. Pakistan is one of the top ranked in the list of countries with diabetes where one out of five people suffers from the disease.
Dr. Hameed’s journey began in November 2011, when he decided to take the plunge. During a winter morning walk along the corniche, he shared his idea of establishing a hospital in Pakistan with two of his close friends.
Since then, there has been no looking back. “I initiated the project six years ago with my life’s savings of Dh300,000. We first launched a site clinic in Islamabad in 2012, where more than a 100 patients visited per day. And in April 2018, our world-class hospital became operational,” the father of three said, adding that “till date, we have spent Dhs 25 million on the hospital and are treating 200 patients per day.”
“We [Pakistani Gulf expatriates] are not only the highest in providing remittances to the country, we also serve our country in many ways. Contributing to the health sector is one such example. There are many known and many unsung heroes from the gulf countries who are serving Pakistan in several ways,” Dr. Hameed said.
“Though providing quality health services to all Pakistanis is the government’s job, we as responsible citizens cannot sit back and see our brothers and sisters suffering. We may have left our homes for the better future. But our heart and soul is still there. We will continue to do whatever we can. Keeping our people healthy is certainly one of such responsibilities that we owe to our country,” he said.
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) issued in 2017, Pakistan spent 0.5 to 0.8 percent of its GDP on health care for the past 10 years while the WHO benchmark of health expenditure is at least 6 percent of the GDP to provide basic and lifesaving services.

Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

Updated 22 min 56 sec ago

Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

  • Over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship which offers grants to 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD students this year
  • Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan urges Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering

PESHAWAR: Mohammed Umer Daudzai, Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan, on Monday lauded a Pakistani scholarship for Afghan nationals, saying it would have a ‘positive impact’ on the bilateral relationship and on the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

According to Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC), over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships in Pakistan, which offers 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD grants.

The programme was launched in 2009, and 5,000 Afghans have so far benefited from it, gaining degrees in various fields including medicine and engineering. At least 100 seats are reserved for female students as part of the scholarship each year.

“The 800 scholarship this year that Pakistan has offered to Afghanistan is very important; it will have a very positive impact on bilateral relationships,” Daudzai told Arab News on Monday. “It will have a great impact on the life of people of Afghanistan because ... a significant number of these scholarships are in medicine and engineering which is very important for us.”

He added: “The Pakistani scholarship for Afghans is cheapest and most feasible because of the two countries' proximity. Afghan students can travel to their home country easily without involving huge expenses.” 

He also urged the Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering.

“We noticed that a significant number of the youths that participated in this year's scholarship are Afghan girls, which is important,” Daudzai said. “It’s indicative of the trust that families in Afghanistan have to send their daughters to Pakistan."

Afghan students attend a pre-orientation session at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 24, 2020 for the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Embassy Kabul)

Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship Programme for Afghan Nationals was a “valuable” contribution to develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector.

“Pakistan has already contributed in the neighboring country’s development. And this (scholarship) programme will help develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector,” Chaudhri added.

Last week at the pre-orientation programme organized in honor of Afghan students at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan said more than 50,000 Afghans educated in Pakistan were now serving Afghanistan’s public and private sectors.

Farzana Sharifi, an Afghan female student at COMSATS University Abbottabad, told Arab News that many Afghan students were keen to study at Pakistani educational institutions because of the quality of the universities and low costs.

However, she said Pakistani institutions needed to start orientation classes to prepare Afghans better to speak and understand Urdu and English.

“Special orientation classes need to be arranged for newcomers so they become familiar with the language of the medium of the particular university,” Sharifi said. “In addition, our students should be given special incentives while crossing the border or traveling in Pakistan.”

Ahmad Milad Azizi, a networking officer at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Kabul who graduated with bachelors degree in computer science from a Pakistani university in 2015, said the scholarship programme for Afghan students was also a great opportunity for Afghans to learn about Pakistani culture.

“Islamabad needs to explore measures to ease students’ travel from and to Pakistan,” he added. “I suggest the government of Pakistan increase the number of scholarships because our country direly needs qualified manpower and professionals.”