Just as I fervently wish that the Arsalan Iftikhar case should never have happened, so I wish that the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH) investment brouhaha had never happened. I have explained my reasons on the Arsalan matter last week; as for SKMCH, like fellow tweeter and friend Salman Akram Raja, I, too, have huge respect for the institution for I also had a loved one who was cared for at SKMCH.
Many are the times that I have written about this premier institution serving humanity: those who can afford it paying; the poor who cannot, being treated for free, for months on end in some cases. I will never forget what my wife told me one day when she took our patient to the hospital for her treatment.
A young mother from Kohistan was sitting in the next seat, holding her young child who had cancer, whilst massaging the little one’s back. My wife got talking with her and found that she was taking a break from the ward to take the child outdoors and sit in the main reception area for a while to distract her.
The child had been at SKMCH for nine months, and was due to end her treatment in another three. Not one paisa had been spent by the poor parents, the mother staying at the hospital to care for the little child, the father staying back in their village to care for the other children. There are hundreds of such stories coming out of that great hospital, may it continue to do good.
However, I do believe that too much has been made of the allegations of financial impropriety by the Investment Committee of the Board of Directors (BoD), for these allegations take nothing away from the hundreds of good people who staff the hospital and bring relief to thousands of patients. The prestige of SKMCH has certainly not come down in my eyes because of these allegations.
But they are serious and must be looked at. A few days ago, an email did the rounds of the internet in which one Imtiaz Hydari, former member of the SKMCH BoD and owner of HBG, the company through which the BoD invested funds in real estate in Muscat that turned out be a bad investment, says that he “refrained from voting to avoid conflict of interest” on the day that the BoD decided to invest in his company. And that the “market fundamentals across GCC (sic) were excellent” at the time that SKMCH invested funds in it.
Now, none of this may be illegal, but the fact remains that the funds were invested in a company owned by a member of SKMCH’s board, which was influenced to invest in Muscat real estate by the said member. This hardly passes the test of good prudential behaviour for whilst Hydari may not have voted, his peers with whom he sat on the board certainly did.
Additionally, if it is true that the ‘market fundamentals across GCC were excellent’ at the time, why did SKMCH not invest its money through one of the many other companies in the same business as Hydari’s? Was his the only company in Muscat taking advantage of the ‘excellent’ market fundamentals? The man goes on to assert that the allegations merely uncovered a dead rat. Surely, he knows that dead rats smell to high heaven.
Now then, is it any wonder that Imran Khan’s political opponents are opening up the big guns on him? What have I been saying to arrogantly deaf ears for months now, or shall we say, from when the ‘Tsunami’ first hit Lahore and many a veteran of many a party went scurrying to the PTI.
This is what I said in this same space on November 3, 2011 whilst criticising Imran’s rude language for other political leaders: “... if you open up the heavy guns on others they will open up the heavy guns on you and many, many skeletons will come marching out of the closets. But no big deal: if you play with the big boys you must become a big boy”. Did anyone listen? All one got in return was filthy and vile abuse with no ‘leader’ of the party apologising for it. It was as if the more invective their trolls hurled on perceived opponents the stronger the party became.
And now it has come to this: that he has to ‘appeal’ directly to the Supreme Court of Pakistan saying: “I request Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take up this case immediately as the PML-N wants to launch a campaign against Shaukat Khanum Hospital.” He even resurrected Sita White. I ask you.
How wrong is this, specially when Imran Khan has openly and often declared that he will defend the SC against attacks from wherever. Is he trying to coax a quick decision out of the highest court in the land because he has been cosying up to it? Is this not a huge conflict of interest? Why go straight to the Supreme Court in any case? Are there no Civil Courts where such cases are heard and decided? Is not the SC the final court of appeal and not a trial court? So why does Imran Khan appeal directly to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan?
In the end, felicitations and many congratulations to the PTI for forging an electoral alliance with that shining example, that icon of good manners and probity, Shiekh Rashid ‘Tulli’, leader of the largest faction of the Muslim League. Might I straightaway remind Imran Khan of his many statements threatening a Tsunami March on Islamabad if the present government continues to be contemptuous towards the Supreme Court?
Er, would he care to watch this very short clip showing the contempt his newest partner-in-politics ‘Tulli’ has for My Lord the Chief Justice personally. I wonder what the Great Crusader for the Supreme Court has to say about this? Is his going to be a principled stand or politics as usual?
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.
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