Of mutual political animosities, which proved harmful
By Afzal Hussain Bokhari
It is painful to think how petty differences in politics can sometimes block projects of huge public welfare. For example, a piece of land measuring 120 kanals on the Ring Road, Peshawar was once reserved for building the Benazir General Hospital. On September 11, we came to know through sources in the health department that funds for this plan were not available with the government. Therefore now onwards, the wastage disposal trucks from various parts of the city will arrive here. These trucks will be emptied here and this valuable piece of land will now be used as the dumping ground. So the plan to set up the Benazir General Hospital no longer exists on the health department annals. When Benazir Bhutto first came to power back in 1988, she announced that a 500-bed would be set up on Ring Road. The project was proposed in 1989, while its PC-1 (principal component-1) was prepared in 2011. When the Benazir government was terminated, the succeeding government of Mian Nawaz Sharif suspended this plan. When Benazir Bhutto formed her second government, she restored the hospital plan. She said that instead of having 500 beds, this hospital would now have 1000 beds. The National Engineering Services of Pakistan (NESPAK) estimated that the multi-story hospital building might cost Rs12 billion in those days. If the hospital had been allowed to be constructed, the patients from Charsadda, Nowshera and Mardan would not have needed to go to the already crowded Lady Reading Hospital (LRH). However, those three cities were probably not destined to benefit. On coming to power, the PML-N government again scrapped the hospital plan. According to the concerned authorities, the allocated land of 120 kanals can neither be sold out nor used for any other purpose, except for building a hospital. The sources said that during the last government, there was a plan to give this land on lease for building a private hospital on public-private partnership formula. But even under this formula, the private sector could easily afford to contribute its share, but the government did not have the resources. So the idea was dropped. Later in 2014, a consortium of doctors made a request to the provincial government to give it the land on lease. But there were some technical issues involved in the deal, due to which the lease could not get through. The hospital plan was tagged with the proposal of building the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical College. Unfortunately, both the plans now stand scrapped. Education and health have never been the top priority of any government. Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital was built during British rule. Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Lahore was built by a charitable Hindu billionaire. Similarly, Agha Khan Hospital in Karachi owed its construction to Prince Karim Aga Khan. * * * In a separate development last week, the death occurred in Peshawar of two familiar figures – Rahimullah Yusufzai and Sardar Farooq Jan Babar Azad. Senior journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai breathed his last due to cardiac arrest on September 10. He originally belonged to the village Katlang outside Mardan. His son Arshad Yusufzai said that his father did have issues of the heart ailment, but for the last 15 months he bravely battled against cancer. His funeral prayers were offered in village Inzargai near Babuzai Interchange on Swat Expressway. He was born on September 10, 1954 in village Shamozai, Tehsil Katlang, District Mardan. He was the resident editor of The News in Peshawar. He also acted as the correspondent of Urdu and Pashto services of BBC. In recognition of his contribution to the cause of journalism, he was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz on March 23, 2010. Sardar Farooq Jan Babar Azad passed away at his residence on Babar Road in Peshawar Cantonment. He retired as Superintendent of Police. His funeral prayers, offered in the Police Lines, were attended by top civil and military officers. For burial, his body was taken to his native Dera Ismail Khan. He was the brother of Urdu columnist and broadcaster Nayyar Sarhadi. He was the father of Shahzada Kaukab Farooq, SSP (Investigation), Peshawar, and of Umar Farooq. With Seraiki as his mother tongue, he was equally comfortable in Urdu and English. He used to be an essential presence in the literary sessions of the Halqa Arbab-i-Zauq, Abasin Arts Council and Takhleeq.