When Nadir Khan lost both his legs six years ago, he thought he could bid farewell to his dream of playing cricket.
Now, the 17-year-old boy is an all-rounder as part of a team of disabled cricketers. “This was a ray of hope in my life,” says Nadir. “I am not separated from society [anymore] and I have something to do with my life.”
Nadir’s life was changed by a rehabilitation centre, established in 2002 in Quetta’s Christian Hospital, which provides not only free treatment but also artificial legs, limbs, device and other artificial body parts. Nadir had sustained bullet wounds and his legs had to be amputated to save his life.
The centre, run by its founder orthotics doctor Muhammad Yunus Ahmadzai, also provides accommodation and meals for patients who come from far-flung areas.
“Most of my young players had contracted polio or were injured in landmine explosions,” Ahmadzai, 56, told The Express Tribune, as he proudly introduced members of the cricket team that he formed about two years ago.
Ahmadzai currently heads the team himself and is looking to hire a professional coach. “I met regional officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board and asked them for a proper coach so that the team can be trained daily. Right now, I arrange practice sessions and friendly matches every month.”
In 2004, the centre’s initial donors backed out. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross stepped in as financiers. Without this centre, there will be only one government-run centre for disabled people in Balochistan. But such a centre is direly needed in the area.
“At least seven out of 11 people suffer from the polio virus in Balochistan,” says Ahmadzai. “We receive an average of four new patients every day.”
Almost a half of those who approach the centre are Afghan refugees, according to Ahmadzai. “This centre welcomes everyone, regardless of religious belief, ethnicity and nationality. We are here to help and provide the best treatment free of cost.”
It is because of its affordability that the centre has become the preferred option, even over state-run hospitals.
“In 2000, one of my legs was amputated after I survived a deadly accident in Quetta. I was admitted to a state-run hospital, where I spent over Rs150,000 but all the doctors did was amputate my leg,” said Khan Muhammad, 42.
“A year later, with financial support from an NGO, I got an artificial leg but could hardly stand on my feet. Since I came to this centre, however, I have felt a significant improvement.” Khan says he worked as a driver before the accident and was sure he will never be able to drive again. “But now, I can drive and even ride a bicycle,” he says.
However, there is still much to be desired when it comes to the provision of a comfortable life for disabled people.
The job quota for disabled people in Balochistan has gone unfulfilled by government departments for many years, according to Anjuman-i-Mazuran-i-Balochistan which works for the rights of disabled persons in the province.
“Disabled people have been protesting for two years. They have even held a demonstration inside the Balochistan Assembly but to no avail,” said Lala Yusuf Khelji, who heads the organisation. “Due to nepotism, able-bodied people are being recruited in the quota.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2011.
Correction: Due to an editing error, Mohammad Younus Ahmadzai had been misquoted on the cost of the treatment. The correction has been made.