‘New precedent’: Pakistani woman fights prejudice, becomes first deaf doctor in Balochistan

Balochistan’s first deaf doctor, Dr. Mahwish Sharif, speaks to a patient and her attendant at the Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, on May 25, 2022. (AN Photo)
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Updated 31 May 2022

‘New precedent’: Pakistani woman fights prejudice, becomes first deaf doctor in Balochistan

  • Dr. Mahwish Sharif lost hearing at age four due to eardrum damage, faced years of prejudice before becoming a doctor
  • Sharif hopes to inspire others, wishes more parents would allow their children to face “challenges of the outside world”

QUETTA: As Dr. Mahwish Sharif entered the tuberculosis ward at the Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital in Pakistan’s Balochistan province last week, she reached up to her ears to make sure her hearing aid was in place.

This is a routine check for Sharif, the first doctor in Balochistan with a hearing impairment, who overcame years of prejudice to finish medical school and be appointed as a doctor at the Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital, the only health facility in the provincial capital, Quetta, for the treatment of respiratory and viral diseases.

The 29-year-old doctor hails from a remote village in the central Balochistan district of Kachi and dreamt of becoming a doctor as a child — even after she lost her hearing at age four due to sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL, which occurs after inner ear damage.

“I used to act like a doctor while playing with my brothers when I was a little girl,” Sharif told Arab News at her office, smiling. “The white coat that doctors wear and the stethoscopes always inspired me.”

Balochistan’s first deaf doctor, Dr. Mahwish Sharif, sits in her office at the Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, on May 25, 2022. (AN Photo)

But though her family supported her, Sharif’s graduation from Bolan Medical College in 2021 came after many long years of discrimination and insensitive comments even from faculty members.

“I found my teachers often complaining about my hearing disability,” she said. “Even in my last medical exams, they did not allow me to use hearing aids since they thought they were headphones.”

Sharif recalled how shaken she was while sitting for an exam and reading the word “disabled” written by an examiner next to her name.

She recalled another instance of discrimination when she was required to submit a permission letter to use a hearing aid for an exam she had sat for at the Balochistan University.

“I got the letter and when I went to the professor [to submit it], who was also head of department of surgery, he saw me and asked my name,” she said. “I told him my name and he said ‘you can hear, you have submitted a fake letter’.”

“Even after asking me all the questions [in the viva exam], he failed me in the final,” Sharif said.

Dr. Mahwish Sharif, Balochistan's first deaf doctor, examines a patient’s x-ray at the tuberculosis ward of the Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, on May 25, 2022. (AN Photo)

Sharif’s experiences are not uncommon in a country where people with disabilities have to live with prejudice and lack of opportunities. In the absence of reliable data, estimates of the number of people living with disabilities in Pakistan vary from 3.3 million to 27 million, according to Human Rights Watch. 

In January 2020, Pakistan passed the Disability Rights Act to provide a comprehensive legal framework to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities. In July of the same year, Pakistan’s Supreme Court directed the federal and provincial governments to implement the new law which requires that two percent of people employed by an establishment be “disabled persons.”

The Supreme Court also ordered the federal and provincial governments to discontinue the use in all official documents and correspondence of derogatory terms such as “disabled,” “physically handicapped,” and “mentally retarded,” and instead use “persons with disabilities” or “persons with different abilities.”

But despite the passage of the law and the top court’s support, those with disabilities remain underrepresented in higher education and in the workforce in Pakistan.

Sharif, however, had “worked very hard” to overcome all obstacles, said Dr. Sadiq Baloch, the medical superintendent at the hospital, adding that he had never received any complaints about the doctor from her patients or their attendants.

“Mahwish has become a role model for our society where persons with disabilities are even marginalized by their own family members,” he told Arab News. “She has set a new precedent that people with disabilities can also fulfill their dreams.”

Hajji Basit, who had brought his mother to the hospital from Harnai district for the treatment of tuberculosis, said he did not face any communication problems with Sharif.

“She is very caring and loving with her patients and my mother feels more comfortable with Dr. Mahwish than any other doctor,” he said.

Speaking to Arab News, the director general of the provincial health department of Balochistan, Dr. Noor Qazi, called Sharif an inspiration.

“While we have allocated a specific quota for persons with disabilities in the medical profession, Dr. Mahwish has fulfilled her dream of getting this job on merit and set a new precedent for others,” he said.

For the future, Sharif said she hopes to work to achieve equality for people with disabilities, and wishes more parents would allow their children to face “the challenges of the outside world.”

“Parents should allow them to develop other skills to live an independent life rather than a life of dependency,” Sharif said. “I am disabled myself and I want to give a message to all disabled people that don’t lose hope, rather accept the challenge. Society will not let us excel until we strive for ourselves.”

Ex-PM Khan aide Dr. Shahbaz Gill challenges sedition case in Islamabad court

Updated 15 August 2022

Ex-PM Khan aide Dr. Shahbaz Gill challenges sedition case in Islamabad court

  • Gill was arrested last Tuesday over comments on ARY News that the media regulator says are “seditious”
  • Gill had asked army officers not to follow top command’s orders if they were “against sentiments of masses”

ISLAMABAD: Dr. Shahbaz Gill, a senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and former prime minister Imran Khan’s chief of staff, on Monday moved the Islamabad High Court against a sedition case filed against him, accusing the police of charging him at the federal government’s behest.

Gill was arrested last Tuesday, a day after he spoke on a talk show aired by ARY News, asking army officers not to follow orders of their top command if they were “against the sentiments of the masses.” ARY News has since also been taken off air by the electronic media regulator which has called Gill’s comments “seditious” and tantamount to inciting mutiny against the military.

“Islamabad Police registered the case to show its loyalty to the government,” Gill said in his plea, referring to the sedition case against him. “The case was filed just to satisfy the political agenda of the federal government.”

Senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said the party stood with Gill, who he said was being persecuted as he was not among the “powerful.”

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority last week issued a show-cause notice to the ARY channel, saying Gill’s comments amounted to inciting mutiny within the army.

The channel’s top management told Arab News on Friday its no-objection certificate had been revoked suddenly and unilaterally.

“What crime have we committed,” its owner Salman Iqbal asked. “We are being punished for a statement by a politician which we have already disowned. But such stern action after a clarification shows that the government has made its mind to silence a critical voice.”

The channel was still off air in many parts of the country on Monday evening.

Pakistani Hajj pilgrims under government scheme to receive Rs150,000 in subsidy from August 17

Updated 15 August 2022

Pakistani Hajj pilgrims under government scheme to receive Rs150,000 in subsidy from August 17

  • The government will inform Hajj pilgrims about the disbursement by sending them text messages
  • Pakistani minister says the country saved substantial amount during Hajj due to Saudi assistance

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Mufti Abdul Shakoor said on Monday Pakistani pilgrims performing Hajj under the government scheme would start receiving a subsidy of Rs150,000 from August 17 as the country said it had completed of its Hajj operation this year.

The government announced a subsidy of Rs4.88 billion which would be disbursed among pilgrims who returned from the kingdom after performing the pilgrimage.

The total Hajj expenditure under the government scheme exceeded Rs860,000, though people will now be getting some financial relaxation after the announcement of the subsidy.

“Our Hajj operation has completed successfully and without any untoward incident,” the minister told Arab News on the sidelines of a post-Hajj news conference in the federal capital. “All people who performed their pilgrimage under the government scheme will start getting Rs150,000 back from August 17 and this disbursement process will complete by August 31.”

He said the pilgrims would be informed about the disbursement through text messages.

“They will get the amount by showing that message along with their national identity card and passport to the bank,” the minister continued. “The bank will transfer the amount into the pilgrim’s account after that.”

Saudi Arabia allowed about a million people to perform Hajj this year after lifting strict coronavirus restrictions which were imposed after the emergence of the pandemic.

Pakistan’s religious affairs minister said the kingdom supported his country’s Hajj mission in every possible way, adding it even increased the South Asian nation’s quota by adding 2,000 more people.

“Due to the hard work of our team and cooperation of Saudis, we succeeded in reducing the expenses by nearly 1,500 Riyal per pilgrim than we had initially anticipated,” he said.

The minister also informed that over 15,000 Pakistani pilgrims under the government scheme had also benefitted from the Makkah Route Initiative.

“The pilgrims were provided residences near the Grand Mosque [in Makkah] and four- and five-star hotels in Madinah,” he said. “Apart from that, they were given the best transportation and food services as well.”

The minister informed it was the first time pilgrims under the government scheme got their boarding passes 24 hours before their return to the country.
He added their luggage was also booked much ahead of their return flight, which saved them time at the airport.

Ruling PML-N party says ex-PM Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan in September

Updated 15 August 2022

Ruling PML-N party says ex-PM Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan in September

  • Ex-PM Sharif was sacked by Supreme Court in 2017 over corruption, has lived in exile in London since November 2019
  • PML-N hopes Sharif's return to Pakistan will galvanize the party's votebank ahead of general elections in late 2023

ISLAMABAD: Javed Latif, federal minister and senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said on Monday the head of the party, Nawaz Sharif, who lives in self-exile in London, would return to the country in September.

Sharif, a three-time former prime minister of Pakistan, was sacked by the Supreme Court in 2017 on corruption charges and left for London in November 2019 for medical treatment. His brother Shehbaz Sharif became prime minister this April after Imran Khan was ousted from power in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

“The nation has announced its decision that Nawaz Sharif should come back," Latif told reporters, saying he would return in September.

Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison in December 2018 and fined $25 million on corruption charges that he says were politically motivated.

The anti-corruption court in Islamabad said in its ruling that the three-time prime minister was unable to prove the source of income that had led to his ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia. Under Pakistani law, this is taken to prove corruption.

Sharif had already been sentenced by the same court to 10 years in prison on charges related to the purchase of upscale apartments in London, after the Supreme Court removed him from power in 2017.

The 2018 court ruling came on two charges related to Sharif’s assets: the Al-Azizia Steel Mills in Saudi Arabia, set up by Sharif’s father in 2001, and Flagship Investments, a company established by his son, Hasan Nawaz, that owns luxury properties in Britain.

Sharif was found to have been unable to demonstrate that his family had acquired the steel mill legitimately, but was acquitted on the second charge, relating to Flagship.

Sharif denies all the charges which he says were politically motivated. He has. repeatedly accused the military and courts of working together to end his political career and destabilize his PML-N party. The military denies the charge.

The PML-N hopes Sharif's return to Pakistan will galvanize the party's votebank ahead of general elections in late 2023.

Bradlaugh Hall, hub of Indian freedom movement, now a crumbling ruin in Lahore

Updated 15 August 2022

Bradlaugh Hall, hub of Indian freedom movement, now a crumbling ruin in Lahore

  • Named after British MP Charles Bradlaugh, Hall has birthed many political movements and anti-colonial revolutionaries
  • Since partition, building used as shelter for migrants, warehouse for iron merchants and grain silo for food department

LAHORE: When you take a left turn on Lower Mall Road in Lahore and go down Rattigan Road toward the ancient city’s district courts, you pass by an imposing red-brick building, a picture of neglect with its peeling paint and raggedy doors.

A plaque outside the desolate structure reads: “This building was called Bradlaugh Hall.”

Indeed, though the structure that was once Bradlaugh Hall is still there, the buildings’ grandeur and stature as a host to the veritable “who’s who” of the movement for the independence of India is a thing of the past. The resplendence of a great political history is today only a memory.

“For almost half a century, this hall would play host to Indians of all cast, creeds and religions and their political sessions, receptions, literary sittings and even mushairas (poetry conference),” Wajahat Masood, a veteran journalist and historian, told Arab News.

The pictue shows an inscription on a plaque made of stone in Bradlaugh Hall in Lahore, Pakistan, August 15, 2020. (Muhammad Imran Saeed/Facebook)

Seed money of Rs10,000 for Bradlaugh Hall was collected by Indian banker and activist Dayal Singh Majithia through a fundraiser at the Indian National Congress party’s annual session in Lahore in 1983, according to noted historian Dr. Tahir Kamran. The Congress party was the first modern nationalist movement to emerge in the British Empire in Asia and Africa.

“At the time, there were only two halls in Lahore, the Town Hall of the municipal office and Montgomery Hall in Lawrence Garden, which were owned by the government and not available for political events,” Kamran said.

Bradlaugh Hall, built at the tail end of the 19th century, was named after British MP Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891), a notable freethinker of his era and a staunch supporter of the Indian struggle for independence from British rule. Bradlaugh wished for political activists of the time to have an administrative center where they could gather and discuss their political future.

The undated photo shows British MP Charles Bradlaugh. (Save Bradlaugh Hall, Lahore)

“Bradlaugh was a radical liberal of his time who vehemently advocated women voting rights, birth control laws and independence for Indians,” Kamran said. “Bradlaugh’s daughter wrote her father’s biography, in which she recalls him as an Indian.”

The Hall, which comprises several rooms, a pavilion and a vast area for public gatherings, was completed in 1900, nine years after Bradlaugh passed away in 1891. It was inaugurated by Congress President Surendranath Bannerji.


In its early years, the Hall “helped facilitate the labor and peasants’ movement, especially the influential movement of the peasants (known as “Pagri Sambhal Jatta”) of Lyallpur (Faisalabad), in 1905,” reporter Aown Ali wrote in 2015 in daily Dawn. 

“Later, in 1915, the ‘Ghadar Party’ also had its base in Bradlaugh Hall. By the 1920s, it had become well-known across India as a prominent political hub.”

Among those who visited and delivered speeches at the Hall are Allama Muhammad Iqbal, one of the subcontinent’s most celebrated poets, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, a key member of the Pakistan Movement and widely considered ‘the father of Urdu journalism,’ and Jawaharlal Nehru, who would go on to become the first prime minister of India.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and the leader for the movement for an independent homeland for the Muslims of India, also delivered at least one speech at Bradlaugh, on May 24, 1924, during the Khilafat Movement, a pro-Islamic campaign in the subcontinent to salvage the Ottoman Empire and its ruler after World War 1.

According to Haroon Khalid, author of the book ‘Imagining Lahore,’ Bradlaugh Hall was home to the National College, set up by Indian author and politician Lala Lajpat Rai “to prepare ‘intellectual revolutionaries’” such as Bhagat Singh, the famed hero of India’s freedom struggle. It also hosted the Indian National Congress’s historic 1929 Lahore session that culminated in the declaration of Purna Swaraj, or full independence, on December 31, which the party would celebrate as India’s symbolic Independence Day until 1947.”

In March 1926, young proponents of freedom from all over India, especially Punjab, formed the “Naujawan Bharat Sabha” with the objective of transforming their ideology into action. The left-wing association chose Bradlaugh Hall as its headquarter. 

The pictue shows exterior view of Bradlaugh Hall in Lahore, Pakistan, August 15, 2020. (Muhammad Imran Saeed/Facebook)

On October 7, 1930, when freedom fighters Singh and two others were sentenced to death, the Sabha party was declared illegal. However, it was revived as a legal defense team for Singh and others under the name of the “Bhagat Singh Appeal Committees,” with sessions carried out at Sabha’s office in Bradlaugh Hall.

The building also served as a center of cultural activity.

“Apart from being the center of political activities, this historic hall also served as a center for activities related to literature, culture and arts,” historian Masood said.

To commemorate their victory in World War 1, the British organized a mushaira at the Hall in 1919 where Iqbal recited his famous poem Shoa’a-e-Aftab. It is also at Bradlaugh that during the first session of the Lahore Students Union, the poet Josh Malih Abadi recited his famous revolutionary poem: “Suno ay Bastgaan e Zulf Gaiti, Nida Ye Aa Rahi hai Aasman Se/ Kay Aazadi ka ik Lamha hai Behter, Ghulaami ki Hayaat e Jawidaan Se” (Listen! You slaves of the times, such is the order of the day coming down from skies/ A moment of independence is far better than the eternal life in slavery).

The Parsi Theatrical Companies of Cowasjee and Habib Seth were very popular, and both used to perform at Bradlaugh Hall. In 1903, Narayan Prasad Betab’s drama Kasauti was played here. Legendary singer and dancer Gauhar Jaan Kalkattewali performed to a sold-out Hall in 1912.

But the building’s golden years came to an end in 1946 when the All-India Muslim League, formed out of the need for the political representation of Muslims in British India, won majority in the 1946 provincial elections, which is believed to have laid the path for Pakistan. After that, the rival Indian National Congress stopped meeting at Bradlaugh.


The Hall was managed by the Bradlaugh Hall administrative committee till the 1947 Partition of India, and for a decade after independence was used to provide shelter to migrants from Amritsar, as a warehouse for iron merchants and as a grain silo for the food department.

“The Government of Pakistan handed over the hall to the food department and it was converted into a wheat storage center,” Wasif Naqi, a historian and journalist who grew up in a neighborhood located behind the Hall, told Arab News. 

The pictue shows Bradlaugh Hall in Lahore, Pakistan, August 15, 2020. (Muhammad Imran Saeed/Facebook)

“For a long time, the hall also served as a car workshop. We would hear the din of hammers used by mechanics all day,” Naqi said.

Flooded in a rain storm in 1956, Bradlaugh Hall could no longer be used for food storage and was turned into the National Technical Institute in 1957. The Institute had the building until the 90s, which writer Aown Ali described “as the worst period for this historic building, as it was in this period that all the land grabbing and illegal interventions took place … the area was being exploited all for personal and monetary interests.”

Since 1997, the building has been sealed.

This April, however, the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) and the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) said they would join hands to restore the original façade and the internal and external portions of the structure to return Bradlaugh Hall to its former glory. 

“Ideally, a library should be built within Bradlaugh Hall, including a space for political activity,” Kamran the historian said. “But what we have done to our other libraries is no less shameful to what we’ve done to this historical building which once helped bring revolution and thus independence.”

“More important is to return to the ethos this building once embodied, though restoring the structure is also vital,” journalist Masood said. “This act [of neglect] is an insult to the efforts and sacrifices of the revolutionaries who broke the chains of slavery for us.”

Analysts call Pakistan’s currency, stocks international ‘top performers’ in August

Updated 15 August 2022

Analysts call Pakistan’s currency, stocks international ‘top performers’ in August

  • Stocks surge by 22 percent while rupee appreciated by 11 percent since the beginning of this month
  • The change in market sentiment owes to expected revival of IMF program, financing from other nations

KARACHI: Local traders and analysts on Monday described Pakistan’s currency and stocks as global ‘top performers,’ saying they had recovered much of their value since the beginning of August after months of depressed trading against the backdrop of political and economic uncertainty in the country.

Pakistan’s main stock index rose by 764.25 points to close at 43,621 while the currency appreciated by 0.71 percent to close at Rs 213.98 against the US dollar in the interbank market on Monday.

The stocks and the Pakistani rupee have appreciated by 22 and 11 percent, respectively, during the ongoing month in a consistently bullish spell.

“After months of economic and political uncertainty, the rupee and stock market have emerged as top performers in August so far, beating all other countries,” Muhammad Sohail, chief executive officer of Topline Securities, a Karachi-based brokerage firm, said while referring to Bloomberg data. “The rupee is up 11 percent while KSE100 Index has surged by 22 percent in dollar terms.”

The rupee has appreciated by 11.58 percent, or Rs25.97, against the greenback in the last ten trading sessions that remained bullish.

Prior to that, Pakistan’s national currency lost its value by 17.51 percent since January due to economic concerns related to the revival of the support program of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the political situation that led to the ouster of former prime Minister Imran Khan in April.

The recent appreciation of the rupee is mainly due to the revival of the IMF program after Pakistani authorities and officials of the global lending agency reached a staff-level agreement for the seventh and eighth review of the loan program on July 13.

The agreement has paved the way for the disbursement of $1.2 billion by the IMF at the end of August after the approval of its executive board.

Pakistan is also expected to get some financial assistance from friendly countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is desperately required to bridge the financing gap recently mentioned by senior IMF officials.

These developments have also had a positive impact on the country’s equity market which had a bullish close on Monday, said analysts.

“The bullish market sentiment owes to the strengthening of the national currency along with the IMF’s letter of intent for the revival of the bailout program,” Ahsan Mehanti, chief executive officer of Arif Habib Corporation, said. “Reports of additional financial support from Saudi Arabia after the finance minister hinted at $1 billion UAE investment through Pakistan Stock Exchange [PSX] have also helped the situation.”

He added that other factors that benefitted the market included a positive sentiment in global equities and renewed foreign interest in PSX ahead of the IMF bailout receipt expected this month.

Pakistani analysts expect the rupee to stabilize between Rs200 and Rs210 against the US dollar.

“The Pakistani rupee was undervalued against the greenback which is expected to stabilize at around Rs210 after recent prospects of inflows from the IMF and friendly countries,” Samiullah Tariq, director research at the Pakistan-Kuwait Investment Company, told Arab News.

However, currency dealers said the rupee was likely to find support somewhere around Rs200 after the revival of the IMF program and expected import cuts.

“The rupee was depreciating due to the uncertainties surrounding the IMF program, though the fundamentals were sound and now the national currency is appreciating on mere promises since we have not received the funds so far,” Zafar Sultan Paracha, general secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP), said.

“The pressure on the Pak rupee will further ease off in the coming days due to the reduction in global commodity prices, including oil and other energy products along with freight cost cuts,” he added.

Fitch Ratings in its latest Economics Dashboard released on Monday said global supply chain disruptions were beginning to unwind as shipping rates were gradually declining while the time taken to deliver goods was also falling quickly.

It added that port congestion had eased and the backlog of orders was getting cleared, raising the prospect of lower core goods inflation ahead.

“The cost of shipping freight has declined by as much as 70 percent on some routes since September 2021 while transporting cargo now takes around 90 days instead of 122 days in April 2022,” the international rating agency said. “Congestion at US ports has dropped significantly, falling by close to 80 percent since last November.”