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There is more to Londonistan

The writer is a lawyer and political analyst

London has a special place in the Pakistani psyche. After all, nearly every exiled politician of import, and more recently, a president-general, has called London home.  But there is more to Londonistan than Musharraf’s half-senile statements stumbling out of Edgware Road, the melodrama of Altaf Hussain in Edgware proper, the endless neckties purchased by Nawaz Sharif at Harrods of Knightsbridge, the choice mango crates delivered by Asif Zardari to real estate consultants in Mayfair, or Imran Khan’s glamorous posers for Hello! magazine from the plush environs of Lady Anabel’s Richmond estate.

There is the London of complicated murders, secret political rendezvous, high-end shopping, not to mention, high-end gossip, emanating from sought-after celebrity summer garden parties. And then there is the London of patriotic professional Pakistanis dedicated to playing their part, not only through words, but also deeds. It is unfortunate that many in Pakistan have begun to feel that those who go abroad must be part of the wealthy, uncaring elite who have squandered Pakistan.  Surely there is a group like that, but it is in the minority. The vast majority of Pakistanis abroad have humble middle-class origins, and for that reason, they are committed to helping Pakistan, even though, for some, the hard work abroad has paid off and they are now affluent.

At a meeting of the UK Association of Medical Aid to Pakistan, a group that my husband and I support, I had the opportunity to meet the enigmatic Dr Viquar Quraishi. As we discussed various mobile and stationary water filtration units that could serve several flood-affected villages so as to prevent the rampant spread of water-borne diseases, Dr Quraishi enlightened us with his work during the 2005 earthquake. As an orthopaedic surgeon, he had found it necessary to amputate several individuals who had been caught in the rubble. Collating figures, the earthquake left 738 amputated.

“When I returned to London, I got nightmares,” he said, “I needed to give them limbs.”  He wrote to the World Health Organisation, only to receive an estimate of in excess of £1,000 per limb. Who would pay for that? Those who had been amputated had hardly any money. Dr Quraishi contacted the doctor in Jaipur (India) and what followed was a unique collaboration of an Indian and Pakistani to make advanced medicine accessible in the developing world. The doctor in Jaipur invited Dr Quraishi and taught him his technique. Not only did his prosthetic limb cost only about £30, it allowed the user to squat, plough in the fields, and do all those things an average Indian or Pakistani would need to do as part of his daily routine but a western user would not.

There was however one issue.  In order for Dr Quraishi to start work in Pakistan, he needed 18 technicians from India to help him, and they were duly refused visas. In spite of trying through various connected channels, it wasn’t until Dalai Lama (one of his assistants had a prosthetic limb also fitted in Jaipur) confronted Musharraf at a state dinner that the visas were finally issued.

Although Dr Quraishi’s achievements are exceptional, there are so many other London-based Pakistanis who are committed to Pakistan. Dr Abdullah Hoodbhoy spoke of using his vacation time to train a midwife in Balochistan.  And Dr Kaukab Rajput went through countless hours of bureaucratic hassle to register Medical Aid to Pakistan as a British charity, so that all donations are tax exempt and an additional 28 per cent is matched by the British government in gift aid. “They rejected us eight times,” she told me, “but I was very persistent.”

Londonistan has much to offer: fanciful shenanigans of stale politicos or talented Pakistanis willing to share their money and expertise. Watch this space for more of the latter.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2010.

Ayesha Ijaz Khan October 3, 2010

Reader Comments (11)

  • Hasan 1 month ago
  • Nice simple article. I suppose you are right, there are good and bad people every where. The bad may be few in number but certainly more visible. Your highlighting of the good guy is commendable.

    parvez 1 month ago
  • Hasan people like you are always there for negatives why you have to point that news here, everyone is responsible for his/her own deeds. let them do what they do and correct yourself accordingly and hope and pray they will correct themselves

    Ali 1 month ago
  • Ali – why do you wish to not hear things that are true? Have you nothing to say about the UK estate agant owner, presumably a well off middle class man, and his unfair treatment of this woman?

    The Truth is only the Truth 1 month ago
  • Untold deeds, thanks for sharing them.

    M.S.Shaikh 1 month ago
  • “I have known Dr. Viquar Qureshi ( Born Volunteer) for over 20 years, he has done wonderful job as a volunteer in many countries, even during his medical student days, he has a few stories to tell you about Beirut, Lebanon and meeting with some personalities of the time.
    I would really like to recommend him for a humanitarian award, but I don’t know where to start.”
    Dr.Ajaz Sami

    Dr. Ajaz Sami 1 month ago
  • I know Viquar Qureshi since 1976 and don’t find him enigmatic in any way. We are graduates from a medical school if Karachi. Dr. Ajaz Sami is right that Dr. Qureshi has been involved in humanitarian activities since he was a medical student. As a valuable friend and school mate I am very proud of his efforts, not just in Pakistan but internationally. Although I admire all his efforts, I am especially impressed by his work in providing artificial limbs within a day for the earthquake victims in Pakistan. In addition, his recent efforts for water purification have impacted on the lives of thousands as well.

    I will enthusiastically support his nomination for a humanitarian award for his long time and selfless efforts.

    Mujeeb Uddin Shad 1 month ago
  • I happened to meet Dr.Viquar Qureshi & his family by chance only recently in N.Y.
    Yes, it is a common belief in Pakistan that all the migrated Pakistanis are only engrossed in making money in the greener pastures to which they have long gone BUT Dr. Qureshi has proved all of them wrong.
    The selfless assiduous work of this family (wife Ambreena & daughter Maria too ) deserves laurels at least at the national level and can serve as a model even at the international level .
    By providing the most economical and comfortably workable artificial limbs and clean drinking water to the have nots of the society he has proved nothing is impossible if one only has the determination .
    He has gifted smiles to so many . This itself is a rare and higly commendable trait these days .He will be rewarded by Allah but it is high time the Earthlings of this pure country too wake up and notice .
    Bravo Dr. Qureshi.
    Aziza Hyat

    aziza hyat 1 month ago
  • dr.vaqar qureshi is an exceptional production by sindh medical college.

    dr.imtiaz ather siddiqui 1 month ago
  • Great work Champ! A Hero in the family is not always a blessing! Makes the rest of us feel like people of little or no consequence, which is probably true! Keep it up. No award can benchmark your accomplishments, and I don’t really think you’re looking for an award either. Your award(s) await you in the Hereafter. Salute!

    Adil Ahmad 3 weeks ago
  • Well done Viquar. You make us feel proud. Thanks Ms Ayesha Khan for highlighting the contribution of overseas Pakistanis.

    S Jawed 3 weeks ago

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