He was meant to save lives, but took his own

Published: April 17, 2010
This is not the first time a student at the Aga Khan University has committed suicide.

This is not the first time a student at the Aga Khan University has committed suicide.

KARACHI: Mum is the word on the death of Ishfaq Hussain, the 21-year-old medical student from Chitral whose decomposed body was found hanging from the ceiling fan inside his dorm room at the Aga Khan University (AKU) on Thursday.

Students and faculty members have been barred by the administration from talking to the media about Ishfaq. Private security guards have been placed round the clock outside the male hostel, the building which accommodates more than 500 medical students. But what is there to hide?

“Ishfaq left a four-page suicide note,” confided one medical student close to him. The note, he alleged, detailed the young man’s miserable life at AKU. The AKU administration’s officials initially denied that Ishfaq had left any suicide note. “I don’t have any knowledge about such a note. The police is still investigating the matter,” said AKU Dean Dr Farhat Abbas. However, when pressed, their public affairs officer confirmed that Ishfaq had written a note late in the evening. “It deals with only the philosophical aspects of life and did not mention anything against AKU or his own problems,” claimed Rasool Bux Sarang. AKU did not share the note with The Express Tribune.

Ishfaq, his batch mates said, was a good student and also participated in sports. “He never flunked in his exams,” said one young woman, who was in the same second-year class as Ishfaq. “Our last major exam took place three weeks ago, so it’s not as if there was any pressure on us.”

As with most suicides, shock prevailed on campus. “Nobody could have thought he would commit suicide,” said one senior. “He was a really good cricketer and was named the bowler of the series in a recent university tournament,” he said.

There is worry and concern; why did the bright young man choose to take his own life?

“Ishfaq was a reclusive type,” said one of his batch mates. “He never spoke with anybody, especially with girls in the class. But since most of the guys from the northern areas in our school act like that around us, nobody really noticed anything weird about it.”

Ishfaq had confided with a friend at school, who also hailed from Chitral, that he was depressed. “I tried to help him,” he told The Express Tribune, refusing to say anything more.

Medical school the world over is associated with high levels of stress, something that students are cognizant of when they choose to enroll. “There’s a lot of pressure on some,” said one medical student, who is in the last year of his programme. “Many students in the dorm resort to drugs like weed to deal with academic and social stress,” he said, adding, however, that Ishfaq was not the type to use marijuana.

A senior doctor and faculty member at AKU said students, especially those coming from far-off places such as Chitral, have to deal with massive cultural shock when they move to Karachi. “It is really hard for someone who comes from a conservative background to adjust in an ultra-modern and hip environment that the school offers,” he said.

Another senior doctor confided that the AKU had started a faculty mentorship programme to deal with exactly such issues. “However to this day it remains only an effort on paper,” he said. The faculty member also said that the school had advertised the position of Dean of Student Life at the school a few years back, when another medical student had committed suicide with a drug overdose.

“However, to date no appointment has been made for that position which was meant to deal specifically with the issues students face at the school,” he said.

What is disturbing for many people is that Ishfaq’s body was not found for two days. His neighbor told the police that initially he thought a pigeon or some rodent had died somewhere near his room. But when the stench increased over the course of two days, he urged the coordinator to open up Ishfaq’s room. Police officials said that they had initially thought the body was at least four days old.

“However, we discovered a receipt from his room which confirmed that he had eaten food from the university canteen on April 13 and therefore, was alive at least till that point,” said Inquiry Officer Zubair.

“It was a horrifying sight,” confided Sharif, a police official. “His body was so badly decomposed that we didn’t even manage to take his fingerprints because the skin was peeling off his body.”

Psychiatrist Dr Mussarat Hussain said that it was “really a cause of concern” that suicides have taken place at renowned schools such as AKU, the Lahore University of Management Sciences and and the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, where apart from quality education, students have access to the best recreational facilities and even counseling.

One of Ishfaq’s family members informed The Express Tribune on Friday that the body was being taken to Chitral after a post-mortem was conducted in Karachi at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. The police said that they were waiting for the complete medical examination report. They said that the cause of death has been confirmed as suffocation.

Stop other Ishfaqs from happening

The Express Tribune has acquired an open letter written by an AKU student after one of their colleagues committed suicide on Wednesday.

Things would never be the same for the students of Aga Khan University’s medical college from the time that they learnt of their colleague’s death on the afternoon of April 15. Ishfaq, about three years away from becoming a medical doctor, ended his life by hanging himself by a bedsheet from the fan in his hostel dorm. A foul smell, first thought to be that of a dead pigeon or a rodent, by his neighbor Hisham, a student in second year, turned out to be Ishfaq’s rotting body.

Ishfaq belonged to Chitral and had only visited home once in the two and a half years he spent in Karachi. He was academically sound and a great sportsman. Recently he led AKU to victory in the intermedical college cricket tournament by striking five wickets. For someone doing so well, what went wrong? Did we miss something?

Ishfaq was a very reserved person, he didn’t have many friends. Close friends he didn’t make. Despite this, he had a prominent smile that always seemed genuine. He spent most of his time in his room, socialising very infrequently. Rumour has it that he would go through extreme phases of depression, while other times he would be hyperactive and over talkative. And no one noticed he was gone till a few hours after he had taken his life. We were too late.

This is the fourth suicide since 1991 at this institution, involving three medical students and a resident, and the last one taking place about six years ago. Dr Murad, a professor of psychiatry at AKUH, informed the students at a meeting about how after the first suicide planned changes to the academic and social structure at AKU were not implemented in the two decades that have gone by and cost us the fourth life [day before] yesterday. There can be no doubt that medical schooling can get very stressful. But this had nothing to do with academic stress.

There was a marked absence of a social support system. Ishfaq had pulled himself away from the people around him, which is hard while living among 150 people in a 50-metre radius. A mentorship programme was initiated about six years ago in an attempt to cope with these problems and prevent them. This incident demonstrates to us how successful the programme has really been. There is even an appointed student counsellor who’s job description is way different from what she does. [She is] … most probably in place either to meet some international or local university policies…

To be fair, dorms are notorious for incidents such as drug overdoses and suicides, owing to the lack of supervision and breakthrough independence. The lack of a social support system aggravates this. So does this institution or any other in Pakistan for that matter have a system in place to spot other Ishfaqs?

[In April 2008], Hashir, a student at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) committed suicide … and this wasn’t the first at LUMS either. The student suicide rate in Pakistan has been increasing …

When admitting students, especially those living in dorms, risk assessments should be carried out and be repeated every year in an attempt to prevent such happenings. Groups of students should be selected from different geographical areas instead of having just one or two [from one particular area]. This ensures [that as] colleagues [they are] more likely to be at the same wavelength and [form] a better social support system.

I would ask everyone to pray for Ishfaq and for his family to have the strength to cope with their loss.

This comment has been edited for clarity

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (100)

  • Mohaisin Sharif
    Apr 17, 2010 - 2:45PM

    I am also medical student of 4th year in Kharkov National Medical University, My opinion as medical student about this article is as follows!
    In this article, it is mentioned that he used to be isolated most time! What about his Personal activities? Even though he was not having much friends apparently what about Friendship or any other activity on Internet and Telephone? Nowadays Electronic Media is playing a major role in building the minds of our youth! So we should not ignore this aspect of modern world!
    thanks a lot Recommend

  • Hasnain
    Apr 17, 2010 - 10:25PM

    Might I add, electronic communication can’t hold a candle to real companionship. You can have 400 friends on facebook but still be empty inside and lonely in the real world.Recommend

  • anon.
    Apr 18, 2010 - 12:00AM

    It is a pity that someone would liken human connection with youtubing or chatting. And I hope people can save passing judgments, lacking grossly in insight on someone who is deceased even if is just out of respect for the grieving family he left behind. Recommend

  • annie
    Apr 18, 2010 - 1:20AM

    I`m a 4th year medical student at the Aga Khan University Medical College. What happened to ashfaq was horrifying; the fact, that a medical student was so stressed out/depressed that he took his own life, needs to be looked into. Stress at Aga Khan runs high and deep, and we are expected to take it in our stride. It is a very demanding field that we have opted for as a chosen career, and it goes hand in hand with days of minimal sleep, being on our feet for hours at an end, and studying for subnormal hours. but it is remarkable that with the hostel environment that we have here, nobody seemed to notice that a boy was missing for over two days. With the integrated learning system we have here, the fact that he did not show up for two major study sessions should have alerted somebody either from the faculty who took the sessions, or his group mates, since the consequences of missing them often results in failing a year of med school. we have group sessions, and one of the reasons for that is to encourage peer contact. it is alarming that despite such an extensive social system, nobody even noticed that ashfaq was upset/depressed, or that he had been missing for two whole days.
    I strongly believe that at the time of our enrollment interviews, suicide and depression risk assessment should be done, and we should definitely have a support system for high risk students. We all respond to stress in our own different ways , but what happened to ashfaq could have been prevented had we a more approachable student psychiatric assistance system in play.
    This is something that really needs probing into. It was a heart rending thing to happen. may Allah bless him. Amen. Recommend

    Apr 18, 2010 - 7:23AM


  • Azfar
    Apr 18, 2010 - 12:02PM

    Would someone from AKU be interested and willing to help us in a documentary about such events?Recommend

  • Osama
    Apr 18, 2010 - 3:47PM

    Where does Tribune get off by saying ‘his miserable life at AKU’. He had sever financial problems which culminated this.Recommend

  • Enough
    Apr 18, 2010 - 4:12PM

    This is disgusting how the only thing the admin wants is none of the blame. Let me be blunt. Ishfaq’s blood is on AKU’s hands. There are no counselling facilities and the only recreation is the sports center, that too, full of rehabilitation patients. There is not one place on campus where we can forget about our future professions, and as simple and naive that may sound maybe that’s all we need. We live in bed bug infested, oven like holes in the wall. You promise us Internet and tv, yet we have nothing. How do you expect us to be okay? Why would I want to tell me most intimate problems to a psych doctor that I would be rotating with later! I don’t want to be highlighted by this hitler-esque admin? Why the **** would I want to be placed on Prozac. **** like this will continue until people like us continue to push AKU, our well being is their responsibility and we have brokers hanging themselves from their fans. We pay 8 thousand for a servant quarter, where does all this money go? Where was ishfaq’s mentor? These people will highlight a student ho is too outspoken in a lecture or in PSIL sessions BUT not somebody who hasn’t spoken on class ONCE even when probed? Why are facilitation evaluations even given out? I am an aku student and my only escape is sweating in my room watching top gear and bangbros. And here they claim to promote health care workers without the requirements of the workers actually being healthy. Depression is rampant in the hostel, and bed sheets many. May Allah help us all.Recommend

  • Shadiya Ikram
    Apr 18, 2010 - 7:29PM

    As a final year medic, i am all too aware of the pressures faced at medical school. The long hours, the never ending chorus of exams. Continuous need to perform and to prove. Even in this tightly knit community I’ve seen much bitterness and intolerable behavior which could only aggravate the pain of living away from home in such a highly strung environment.I offer my commiserations to the family and friends of this young man.

    He must have been so isolated, distraught and alone to have come to the point of taking his own life. A similar incident took place a few years ago in the UK, and I’m sure more happen, but are suppressed by the necessary management.

    Medical school environment has always been a stressful, extremely exhaustive one. This is forever fueled by the peer pressure we face, and the pressure of achieving or far worse failing. As well as what our parents expect from us. Its vital, that we support each other and make life at medical school a bit easier then it is. After all we are all following a common goal. Becoming a doctor is amazing, but i feel some of us fare better at becoming better human beings first and then perhaps becoming doctors.

    It’s tragic, that people now notice this young man -after his death. I’m sure he was miscellaneous whilst he was alive. As always is the case, people never offer their support when people are so withdrawn and they often suffer in silence until its too much. Take care of one another. Avoid causing others pain. Remember you are becoming doctors, soon you will yield the knowledge to save lives so why not use that closer to home. If someone is distressed, unhappy – approach them gently, advise, guide and perhaps just offer an ear to listen to their problems. Sometimes listening is enough. Don’t let them suffer alone.

    If our universities and educational institutes cant support us with counseling, we should talk and help each other. To avoid further heartbreaking catastrophes like this one. Remember your smile, a kind word could make a difference in someones life.

    Finally I wish u all well and may God Bless you all. Remember we only have one life. Live it to the fullest and help others. Show Compassion and kindness and we will become masters of our own destiny.

    Shadiya Ikram
    Final yr medicRecommend

  • annie
    Apr 18, 2010 - 7:35PM

    i totally agree with the last reply. Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Apr 18, 2010 - 10:17PM

    I’m a medical student at AKU..and it is just plain sad how the facilities they provide us do NOT match up to the crazy amount of money they engulf not only from the students but also from the patients. Ishfaq had financial issues and the AKU administration could just not let him pay it at his time. Is that all it comes down to? You stay here as long as you pay on this exact day..??? no flexibility in even a few special cases?
    Secondly, people claim aku is the “party med-school”..it is NOT.. aku is highly over rated. It is SO FREAKING HOT here in khi and they charge us Rs. 8000 for these oven like holes in the walls? I totally agree with ‘Enough’…they dont even ALLOW ACs in the hostel..!! they even have a problem with us buying our own!! how psychotic is that? the rooms are chip-floored and look depressing…the common rooms are DIRTY and there ar only 3 in the entire female hostel taken over by seniors..NO recreation exixts if you dont want to lose weight and gym…you can swim but that is where it ends…fine we know we need to study when we have chosen this profession but cant u freaking improve the student life!!
    he was gone for 2 days and NOBODY noticed..how retarted and sad is that? this shows that if you arent the social type you dont have a place in the bare social life that exists here either..this is all because of the “diversity” the admission staff is after you hardly find people of your own type here!!!! this is made worse with the 100 students quota per batch and taking only the boring NERDS who look great JUST on paper….SAD admission criteria
    and life here gets so boring i really wouldnt be surprised if some of those bedsheets actually do end up on the fan again..!!!!!!!!

  • JJ
    Apr 18, 2010 - 10:28PM

    Agreed! this place is overly stress full. Look at the environment around the campus, so depressing. People prefer doing “leg pulling” yet they are superstars. Touch of humanity is MISSED!!!! No social gathering, outings are even planned or organized by the University Hospital. People cant say any thing for there own rights. Teachers, Seniors, Managers, Bosses have ATTITUDE problems that makes others life miserable.
    Some one must conduct silent-survey for them (those who are on big posts). They demean us, rejects our ideas.
    We have no space to talk with any one. Even on floors we do not have any Mentor, Facilitator, Psychiatrists to listen to our problems. For working staff are AKUH even we do not have such facilities. We are being less paid with no promotions…. isnt it a murder!!!! Recommend

  • JJ
    Apr 18, 2010 - 10:33PM

    adding to my last comment
    many of us think to end our lives..ppl do take sleeping pills, tranquilizers, other medicines…. hospital environment it self is challenging but on top of it PEOPLE around us MATTERS.simple etiquette, professionalism is missed! Recommend

  • anonymous
    Apr 19, 2010 - 1:06AM

    The guy was from chitral and had not been to his place for more than a year..and I know many other students from such places in our university who hardly go to home for vacations and end up being depressed all the time.
    Further more he did not have a very good social gathering or better say no social gathering as his own very hostellite classmates did not realized his absence..thats actually very sad.
    Well I know the university did not provide very good facilities for helping students went out their stress But its a close responsibility of the classmates and colleagues to take care of ppl around them Even if they are not of their type.Recommend

  • random
    Apr 19, 2010 - 1:46AM

    u all r rite….bt annie,anonymus u guys frm aku too …..the part where u said no body noticed him missing for 2 days….did u guys notice that ??? NOOOO
    u dint soo its evri bodies fault….plus life is full ov ups n downs n allll soooo we gotta stand up to stuff like that!!!
    n the part where he had financial pblmz…if nt till now bt from now onnn clges shud understand this n students like ashfaq who get into med clgz like aku shud be definitly given some time to give in their fee!!
    for heavens sake luk out arund us…..otha countries r like sooooo helping n interested to produce excellent students n luk ere we lost a brilliant kid !!! GOD have some mercy on us!!Recommend

  • Barney Stinson
    Apr 19, 2010 - 2:02AM

    It is indeed a great tragedy that we lost a great soul like Ishfaq. But it is even more tragic how the the students at AKU have been exploting his death for their own gains. Go to any other medical school in the country and see the situation of the next generation doctors; the extremely negative attitude of the faculty, the pathetic condition of the hostels, no electricity in this scorching weather, flawed up examination system! You should be thankful to ALLAH SUBHAN’WA’TAALA for what you have is the BEST you can get in Pakistan.
    Stop blaming AKU for once.

    PS: I am a med. student at AKU as well.Recommend

  • anonymous
    Apr 19, 2010 - 2:49AM

    I am also a student at AKU and I would like to correct some of the comments given above. While better hostel conditions, an appointed psychiatrist/proper student counsellor, and better activities/facilities may well have helped, proper social support from the people around him would have made much much more difference. The truth is, we werent there for him when he needed us, we werent the “family away from family” that fellow students are supposed to be. If he’d had that support, and other things besides, maybe none of this would’ve happened.Recommend

  • Taimur
    Apr 19, 2010 - 3:10AM

    you can’t just blame the administration on it. agreed, the studies are hardcore, but he wasn’t the only one in the dorm having to face all these troubles. people have to go through all this
    its more the fact that he was ignored and friendless. AKU isn’t responsible for giving each of its students a social life. didnt his ‘friends’ want to help him other than giving advice?
    even if aku does provide better counselling for such students, its a low chance that students like Ishfaq would want to discuss their personal issues with an appointed member of the staff. you need someone a lot closer for that.
    imo he needed friends. reclusive people often can’t find friends, they need to be brought into a circle or atleast one good friend. he was just alone in an unfamiliar place and he took it really deeplyRecommend

  • KZ
    Apr 19, 2010 - 4:07AM

    As an AKU alumnus, I am deeply saddened by this news. It would be unjustified to blame the institution as a whole however, perhaps more could have been done to prevent such tragedy as this is not the first time it has happened and sadly may not be the last if things do not change. Clearly the measures in place at present are not working.

    I disagree with ‘Anonymous’s comments above, and would like to clarify some things. The AKU male hostel is one of the best available to undergraduates. Every student gets a seperate room from day 1 within a secure clean environment.(Perhaps anonymous would appreciate it more if he/she were to go and live in shared accomodations offered by other medical colleges). The University offers a state of the art sports complex with, olympic sized swimming pool and cricket gound. I could go on but thats beyond the point.

    The student body at AKU is very diverse and this is exactly what adds to an overall rich experience. Unless things have changed drastically over the last few years, AKU offers an excellent social life. Though what you make of your stay is largely upto you and speaking for myself and my friends, I can confidently say that we really had the time of our lives.

    Whatever drove Ishfaq over the edge I donot know, and we may never find out for sure. It is very easy to blame the system but I agree that more could be done in terms of identifying and helping at risk individuals. Easier said than done i know but much more important than a tainted reputation of the institution is the loss of a precious life.Recommend

  • Faris
    Apr 19, 2010 - 4:28AM

    I am deeply touched by the suicide of this gentleman from Chitral. It’s probably not AKU’s fault but of our society in general where people from Northern areas, Khyber-Puktunkhwa and Balochistan are vulnerable to the social pressures at Institutes of higher learning. Being eligible for AKU’s admission is one thing but the cultural disparities is another. As with other national institutes where people are enrolled from under served areas of the country; AKU’s social environment cant be any different. I dont know about the grooming of this boy but my own experience at another prestigiuos institute at Lahore was no different since i also came from Peshawar. We were social pariahs despite our strong educational back-grounds and it was very depressing environment in particular. We resorted to drugs, alcohal and other vices to escape the obvious. I sucessfully made through the maze and am presently working as a professional along with my MD spouse in NY. But when i look back i dont have good memories at the way students are treated by faculty and peers particularly those belonging to small towns and rural areas.

    This could have been prevented if at least there was a crash course in general civility, manners, candid talk about acceptable social behaviours and sincere support groups including faculty. The stress should be on the life after campus not just the student life as at times, “Student life looks larger than life”. Recommend

  • Batool Fatima
    Apr 19, 2010 - 8:30AM

    It is so sad that we are loosing young people with mental health conditions that are treatable. When will we accept that mental health conditions needs attention? anyone can go through it and there is no harm in seeking help i.e. going for counseling/ psychotherapy or getting treatment for it.
    When will our educational institute realize that most of the students need mentors and support to deal with the stressful studies and transition to practical life? specially if they are living away from home or coming from different cultures.
    When will we realize that doctors are not super humans?
    I wonder if our to-be doctors and their faculty cannot recognize signs of depression / bipolar disorder in their students or colleague, how will they identify their patients who are complaining for the physical symptoms or undiagnosable problems, and are depressed?
    Not a surprise that mental health problems are increasing in Pakistan with estimated 34% of only common mental disorders!!!!
    I guess we all are responsible for not accepting the reality, for not supporting those around us going through the pain of mental illness, and for contributing to stigma which keeps people away from seeking care.Recommend

  • well-wisher
    Apr 19, 2010 - 12:16PM

    What Ishfaq went through is really sad. May his soul be rest in peace! I also respect the concerns regarding the need of recreational activities, counselling and support which AKU management should look into. Howeverever I still believe that AKU has been successful in providing quality education and enabling environment to students to achieve their academic goals in the most appropriate manner especially in country like Pakistan where there are only few quality academic institutions. I am sure that Ishfaq’s sad end to life will always be remembered but I think we should also not forget thousands of other medical doctors who have graduated from AKU and are spending wonderful lives and serving others.Recommend

  • Najeebullah Bangash
    Apr 19, 2010 - 12:29PM

    The most disturbing fact is that no one ever noticed that ashfaq was missing- the only factor that lead to this painful discovery was the stench of his corpse. In my opinion, life at hostels should be carefully monitored by the university admin. It’s a known fact that conditions at hostels are very bad and “ragging” episodes could have probably been the cause of his depression, and ultimately, suicide. May he rest in peace.Recommend

  • Hassaan Zahid
    Apr 19, 2010 - 2:57PM

    It is always sad to see someone being pushed to a corner, that they are forced to take their own life. Those responsible can never be held accountable, but at least we should be able to differentiate the right from wrong.

    I am a medical student myself, and i happened to have spent around 3 months in Aga Khan with a terminally ill patient. I honestly could not tell if it was the ailment of the patient or the suffocating environment of that place which took a greater toll on me. If only building designs of grandeur could have solved our problems, we would be treating patients in museums, rather than hospitals.

    Somebody mentioned earlier, Touch of Humanity is lost. Why is it that the top ranked, most expensive schools, have the highest number of suicides ? Thats probably because today we are taught everything except ethics, morality, humanity. Minus these, man is just a machine.

    Strict grading systems force us to compete, where as we should be learning how to work with each other. We tend to take strides in professionalism, where as our patients seek humanity. In pursuit of becoming people most loved, we end up hating ourselves. Recommend

  • AA
    Apr 19, 2010 - 3:41PM

    I am also a medical student from AKU. What I have been wondering all this while is if there was a suicide note, where is it? Keep aside all our discussions and think if there was something else which bothered him? He obviously wrote it so that we can know what pushed him over the line. I don’t know if AKU is hiding it so that they can get away with it or whatever but we should know what actually he wrote so that we can address the problem. If there was something personal, it does not need to be disclosed. But if it was really what we are discussing, we should be told how exactly he felt.Recommend

  • Jazib Bin Jamal
    Apr 19, 2010 - 3:42PM

    It seems clear to me that this case is very different from the ‘LUMS -student suicide’ case, because it was not due to academic pressure.
    This guy obviously had a very different background from the rest of the students. There are some people who since childhood, are used to, having a social circus around them. They are too much dependent and are in need of some real close friends. This boy clearly felt quite lonely here and it was against his nature to be lonely. Believe me when I say, It is very difficult for such students to survive that way.
    So this is what, as I believe, caused him to go for suicide. Recommend

  • Sumaira
    Apr 19, 2010 - 3:43PM

    We lose another person just because of neglence,who is reposible of thiz neglence.yes the teacher,freindz,batchmates may be family.Sharing is most important part of our lives.if we share our feeling we feel relax because its a therapy. wat u feel just say to ur friends,even they dnt know the solutions but give u some sort of relief & if ur friends feel that u need any particular counselling,psychotherapy he/she would suggest u to go through the therapy.(in old times people of villege get to gather once in a week & share their problems to each other,even they share their observations of week). It was very healthy sharing & people have strong social support.Now we can do thiz type of meetings with friendz or teacher,we get to gether once in a week with friends & the theme of meeting would be base on truth,sincerity.Recommend

  • AA
    Apr 19, 2010 - 5:35PM

    It is just sad we weren’t able to realize that he needs someone. We in med schools are so occupied into our own stuff that we don’t see the things we should. I feel equally guilty and responsible, but it is too late now. I wish I could have noticed it. But it shall remain just a wish forever now.Recommend

  • Saeed
    Apr 19, 2010 - 7:17PM

    I was greatly shocked by the news of yet another student committing suicide at AKU. A couple of things I would like to point out.

    Although AKU boasts of a diverse student body, the major problem that occurs once medical school starts is the segregation of the students into groups. There are groupings on so many levels that its hard to keep track, for instance, pathans – non pathans, hostellites – non hostellites, A-levels – Matriculation, burgers – non burgers and so on, the list is just endless. As a result, people hang out only with the people of their cliques. It may happen (although rarely) that a student may not find himself fitting into any of these cliques – hence, the social isolation. I think this is exactly what happened here.

    Also, someone suggested that the risk factors for depression and mental illness should be assessed at the time when students are selected through interviews. One problem with this suggestion – its very easy to lie in interviews and get away with pretending to be something you are not.

    Also, I do not think AKU should be blamed in this particular instance. Everyone knows what they r getting into when applying to AKU – the curriculum is actually as tough as you want it to be. It all depends on you how much academic pressure you want to take. You can study from past question banks and pass the exams or you can study hard and score really well on the exams. Its as simple as that.

    Also, one clarification (not meant with any disrespect) – although I agree that Ashfaq was a good student in his class academically; it is not correct to label him as an honours student as many immediately did. He was a second year student; by university rules, honours in basic science courses of the first two years are not declared till final year of medical school at AKU. Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Apr 19, 2010 - 7:52PM

    I think this is purely a murder of AKU and all in the administration should be held responsible for this. When I was studying in medical college (AKU), because of the strict grading system during basic science and clinical years, I never got those marks compared to the effort I put in. I never suffered from mental health problems during school life, but after my first year, I also became a patient of mental health problems. Because of academic stress, I fought with my parents and siblings throughout the five years of medical school, my life remained disturbed. My school life, on the other hand, was very enjoyable with me scoring very highly on all my exams and the work seemed so easy. But AKU was unbearable. In the exams sometimes, the questions were not even properly framed and the wordings used to be so difficult as to be beyond one’s comprehension. I was also about to get into drugs, but thank Allah did not get involved. But I committed other sins during my five years at AKU because of the academic stress. I wish I had taken a different turn after my Inter and not joined AKU. Recommend

  • Anonymous 2
    Apr 19, 2010 - 8:09PM

    For anonymous AKU alumnus above,

    Did you ever consider that perhaps there is a difference in academics at school and university level???? The two are not comparable. While you may have gotten high marks on all your school exams by virtue of cramming, this method probably failed in medical school. I know for a fact that AKU examinations are very well framed and the grading always reflects the true intellect of the students who take it. Recommend

  • Maverick
    Apr 19, 2010 - 8:11PM

    Let us be honest here. Students from modest backgrounds are tormented by AKU administration. To add diversity and to be in the good books of society, very few students with meager resources are admitted each year. Whereas it serves well on AKU’s resume what happens to those “poor” students is never highlighted. They are obsessively reminded of their pauperized background and constantly pushed to make payments. These are the students who have been excellent in their earlier lives and I am quite sure that their sociability wassn’t as restricted as it gets after they get to AKU.

    When on campus, they find themselves amongst a richer lot. Socialization suddenly emerges as an issue. Next comes the monthly expenditures including hostel fee. Coordinators and hostel managers show differential treatment with such student constantly being looked down upon.

    Whereas depression may have roots in disturbance of a balance of chemicals in brain, I think in a society like Pakistan it has much more to do with such differential treatment. Once very jovial and social students who is excellent in sports and successfully gets through his exam suddenly ends up decayed in hostel room should raise red-flag signs.

    Students all over the world, especially US, where every AKU student ambitions to land a residency are offered financial aid as long as they maintain good standing in class. Once in class they are all equal. No body is poor or rich, and no one is constantly reminded of their status; as being on financial aid or not. Whereas AKU does a good job of offering similar financial aid, it does far worse when it comes to giving them a due social regard. If students are to be selected on merit, then merit should be the criteria for respect not how much money ones’ family has in banks.

    All in all, giving this recent episode, I think the factors for Ishafaq were most likely financial which lead to his circle being restricted and the nagging by AKU administration might have lead to such extreme an action.

    I would like to remind one important point though; when a person contemplates and actually attempts suicide, he/she is doing it for the reasons that all hopes for him/her have died. Social support, talking to people and approaching mentors provides that false sense of hope. It is synonymous to creating a distraction. As doctors we are trained to identify the root cause and strive to eliminate it. That is always the long-term solution. Giving someone pills for a short while wouldn’t stop nagging by AKU administration.

    The solution to these problems is simple;
    1. Don’t select any poor students but only the rich ones who can afford the cost of education. Become in all regards an elitist school.
    2. If you do select them and give them financial support, just like any other medical college in the world, don’t pressure them incessantly. In due course they will be able to repay the kindness and perhaps do much more than that.

    Remember you enrolled them by promising a better future, so give them “hope” not depression once they are in AKU. Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Apr 20, 2010 - 12:17AM

    The factors for this suicide were not financial. Reliable sources and close friends of the deceased have all cited academic pressures as the primary cause in this particular case. The first two years at AKU are particularly very very tough especially for students who have minimal fluency in English.Recommend

  • Ammar
    Apr 20, 2010 - 1:24AM

    @ AZFAR i m at AKU and i will be willing to help you.

    Ishfaq was an introvert person, as far as i know he had no financial issues (his relative told me about that), he did not had a PC in his room bt was planning to buy a new one as he discussed it with his friends a few dayz ago.
    And now please All people from AKU who are speaking about sports center full of rehab patients & demoralizing social life, it simply shows u ppl need to get a life. cmon really comon, look around in the world, be thankful that this institution enrolled u, even ur messages show that u never deserved to be here. Dont dorget when you blame its admission policy that u are here caz of this policy.
    There can be a loong debate abt usefullness of facilities bt the only point i want to make here is That if a person himself has a life he can survive anywhere Recommend

  • Ammar
    Apr 20, 2010 - 1:40AM

    @ Anonymus (just above )
    What are the reliable resources that have informed u that first 2 years are the toughest???? Get your fact right, Ishfaq scored high marks in all his summatives plus first two years are the chillest years in AKU. And there is a huge list of students who are not fluent in english bt are doing great at AKU. So please stop makin such stupid assumptions and get ur facts right.Recommend

  • A proud alumnus
    Apr 20, 2010 - 2:04AM

    It is indeed very sad to know that someone from AKU has ended his life this way..Being an Aku alumnus I can imagine the wind of sadness that must be prevailing all over the pink palace.
    I certainly beg to differ with a few comments above..It is really wrong to blame the admin for evrything that has happened..Yes,I agree the mentorship programme isn’t very affective,but that is failure not only on the faculty’s part.During the time we were at Aku,I barely saw students interested in it themselves really..The turn-out for these meetings wasnt very good and most students would come just for the snacks and not take these sessions seriosly..Also it’s not easy to solve someone’s personal issues that way so easily..If he was a good student and promising sportsman too,the academic stress hardly seems a reason for taking such a grave step.
    As I can infer from the notes above,he was an asocial person from the start..Perhaps he had always been this way..Perhaps he was clinically depressed even before joining Aku..People from these areas are usually shy..but they do have strong bonding atleast with those who com from the same social set up and background..And that is what I hav seen at Aku..There is a decent no of such students in all the batches..And from what I recall they are quite well knitted and do take care of each other.
    It is right to say that friends and faculty should have helped him, but may be they never could have..May be the reason for his depression was something else,completely un-thought of,something happening back home,or whatever else..But no reason to me seems strong enough to end one’s life..Unfortunately Ishfaq did so and all I can say is that we should pray to Allah(SWT) to bless his soul n give patience to his family..
    And I request my dearest juniors to stop criticizing our AKU..It really is better than any other place in Pakistan,in every way..Trust me! You are too young to understand that..Step out of the AKU WORLD and you will realize how blessed and lucky u were to have been a part of such an outstanding institution.
    I graduated not too long ago and for me those were the best 5 yrs of my life..Best education,best hostel-life,best social life..I wasn’t on the honor role n I never felt the need to..the studies were really not that hard..I think the curriculum was well planned and if an easy going person like me,who doesn’t even study every day could sale through so easily..anyone can..AKU makes it easy for you..
    So please do not get carried away and de-fame your institution..OWN IT! the media has always exploited matters but you please do not become comapany to it..
    Pray for your deceased fellow and learn to be friendlier and more helping towards your mates..And if u find anyone is having problems,support them and discuss with d faculty u trust and u think would help make a positive difference..Trust me there are many such faculty mambers at AKU..even seniors..
    As for me,,I was a proud student and continue to be a proud AKU alumnus!
    AL RAHMAN Bless Ishfaq’s soul and prevent such grave mis-happenings in the future.AMEENRecommend

  • Ali
    Apr 20, 2010 - 5:31AM

    I agree with anonymous above. I am now past the basic science stage at AKU and consider myself extremely fortunate to have cleared the exams of the first two years. The first two years were indeed more tough than the clinical years.

    and Ammar, please dont make up stuff as and when your whimsical thinking goes into overdrive. People not fluent in English really have big problems at AKU coping with the curriculum; I have seen that first hand that they do not do well – universally. Recommend

  • Azfar
    Apr 20, 2010 - 9:27AM

    Thanks Ammar. Do you have a phone number / email address where you can be contacted in this regard?Recommend

  • Ali Osama
    Apr 20, 2010 - 12:23PM

    “Now that he is gone everyone seems to be his best freind”…….Incidents like these always seem to bring out the most honest opinion out of people, but then is that what really matters now????…..From what I have gathered about life in the last 21 years is that the most beautiful and fulfilling experiences in life is freindship manifested in all of its dimensions, be it neighbours, classfellows, teachers, teammates. Now if you take that away from someone, and expect him to be satisfied or more so happy, this is a completely unfair ruling……..There are many different kinds of people, but at times you need only those who really know what it feels like………..I am really sorry for not feeling it or being there when you needed a freind the most……….Recommend

  • anonymous
    Apr 20, 2010 - 1:29PM

    Hello everyone,

    I would like to highlight an important point which might shed some light and outburst to the management of AKU. These students from Chitral are brought in to portray and project the recently renamed baltistan-gilgit area and how the AKUF is funding and helping these people (though they dont have any such problems besides poverty) now coming from a different culture (utter rural) they do have a cultural shock, however there is another thing associated with it which is sexual harassment. I trust ‘Tribune’ to not quote my name as i can provide insight into some of the problems at AKU.

    I can provide more details if this is treated as confidential.Recommend

  • Ammar
    Apr 20, 2010 - 2:51PM

    Very rightly said ALI OSAMA….

    AZFAR can u post your email, ppl who want to help u bt cant disclose it on a public forum will also be able to contact u. Recommend

  • anon.
    Apr 20, 2010 - 4:22PM

    AND RECITE SURAH-E-FATIHA atleast once!Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Apr 20, 2010 - 6:12PM

    If any of the AKU Administration is reading this and freting your reputation is being flushed down the toilet, Stop scratching ur heads and start Listening to students and solve their problems.

    to the AKU students and Alumni i would urge to stop pursuing a public humiliation for the University. every institution has its problems.
    It is after all OUR University. OWN it.Recommend

  • Mansoor Ali
    Apr 20, 2010 - 8:25PM

    ISHFAQ was my childhood friend, neighbour,and relative,we attended the same school, we played criket together,we went on picnic together with all our other but few friends..I knew him very well, he never had any quarrel, never,. He was the one whom we were proud of. He was a hard working student and used to meet us always with a big smile followed a huge laugh but a little reserve while chating with strange or new people. I used to go to AKU to meet him..when i share my problems and tensions he use to give a lengthy lecture on how to take the burden off oneself..i met him in the mid of his second year and after that he neer responded to ma text message or call.I met him on Aril 10,scolded him for not replying…..for the last time..On 15th I reached there when his body was found decomposed… No one has expected that..but it happend..without any reason..I read the so called SUICIDE NOTE, there was nothing of his own, a cut and paste when bored with study..
    the only reason revolves his social life and reservance.Recommend

  • ASB
    Apr 21, 2010 - 1:12AM

    I am an AKU alumnus and I spent the past half decade in the hostel. Yes, certain things can be improved but as far as the notion that there is no one to help you is concerned, that is complete and utter rot. I cant say much about the student finance department since I did not apply for a student loan but as far as things like academics, social issues, family issues and depression is concerned, there are a lot of people who are there and are willing to help out… I myself sought help during a bad depressive phase early in college and I found it… And once I reached out, these folks really looked after me. And only after graduating from that place did I realize all the good things that were there.

    If you are a medical student, you should at least be able to realize if something is wrong with you and then seek help. If on the other hand you are determined to hide your issues and not seek help, there is very little that can be done. If you want to believe that there is no one to help you in campus, go right ahead and think that and sit in your rooms and cry your heart out… you maybe able to convince a few idiots that your life is miserable but that DOES NOT change the fact that help is available for every one there. One can only reach out to an extend, you have to be willing to accept it. Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Apr 21, 2010 - 4:15PM

    I agree with most of the comments in this article. Most of the students from the northern areas at aku dont speak to girls and most of their other classmates for unknown reasons. The girls also always prefer to keep their distance from these students. And this pattern can be observed in each and every class at aku – without exceptions. Consequently, these students usually roam around aku as a separate group; they have separate outings, parties, gatherings etc. And they are always observed talking to each other. But the whole thing is really weird. Recommend

  • sabiha
    Apr 21, 2010 - 4:28PM

    I knew ashfaq n how i can forget his smile v were sure aku will groom him will change him n one day will serve the humanity but NOW i have no respect for this institution .they are taking students for granted who hails from rural areas .WAKE UP AKU PLZ TREAT UR STUDENTS as human not machine,believe me they have emotions.I will pray 4 all students of AKU coz they r our future v dont want lose them just like v lost ASHFAQ,Recommend

  • Barney Stinson
    Apr 21, 2010 - 7:37PM

    Quoting ammar “Dont forget when you blame its admission policy that u are here because of this policy.”

    I don’t need to say any thing else.Recommend

  • anonymous
    Apr 21, 2010 - 9:17PM

    Investigation in Student Suicide


    TO: Faculty, Staff and Students

    RE: Investigation in Student Suicide

    DATE: April 20, 2010

    Last week we witnessed the most tragic incident of a medical college student’s demise as a consequence of suicide. This has left everyone shocked and attempts are underway to understand the reasons which led him to take such an extreme step. There have been a series of interactions and feedback has been provided by a large number of individuals to shed more light on this tragic incident.

    It is crucial that we fully investigate the matter with a view of identifying causes and reasons, recommending ways and means of identifying vulnerable individuals, highlighting areas that need strengthening and putting in measures/system change that may prevent similar events in the future. While investigations by the police as well as internal security are ongoing, it would be premature to jump to conclusions.

    Although various student support structures and student services are in place, it is important to understand the gaps and put into place solutions to bridge or close these gaps. Keeping these objectives in mind, I have set up a multidisciplinary committee, which includes student representatives, under the leadership of Dr. Murad Khan to conduct an inquiry in this matter and make their recommendations on what we should do. The salient findings coming out of various investigations will be shared in due course of time.

    Lastly, all this is being done with a clear pledge that the University is fully committed to significantly enhance student services and counseling for its most precious resource, the student body.

    Thank you.Recommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Apr 22, 2010 - 12:00AM

    Sorry to read the sad story of Ishfaq Hussain.

    Police should investigate the case and suggest what should be done to save the precious human lives which is the primary duty of AKUH.Recommend

  • Fayyaz Alam
    Apr 22, 2010 - 12:02AM

    Rest in peace. May his tragic death pave the way for saving lives of many others.

    Reponsibility also lies with students at AKU. I am sure there are many well off students. They should form a welfare society and a telephone helpline. Merely talking to someone about your problems can make you think clearly. Recommend

  • Mary Hass
    Apr 22, 2010 - 9:44AM

    I amazed at the number of complaints lodged. If you do choose to go to an international university who has set a bar very high for it is program, then you must be ready to accept the condition. My niece was a med student at U Of Edmton and for the every year she slogged 16 hours a day. Living conditions were not the best and this is Canada we are talking about. However, she did have strong emotional resolve and was totally commited to see her through. She was willing to pay the price for a bigger gain. Please get real med school in any country is not easy if it is from a recognized university as AKU
    Hang in there and good luck.Recommend

  • sadsid
    Apr 22, 2010 - 10:57AM

    that Kid left a suicide note- maybe the AKUH admin should make it public. why isn’t anyone asking about its contents? what was in it , what did he say. and has anyone spoken to his family? what do they say about all this- are they filing a case on AKUH?Recommend

  • Rashid Saleem
    Apr 22, 2010 - 12:04PM

    This shows the deep depression this terrorism has inflicted in our nation. People have become hopeless. Even that’s wrong because the things are changing. People need to be hopeful about the future and do everything in their capacity to combat and inspire other people.Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Apr 22, 2010 - 12:57PM

    excuse me but why in the world would they file a case on aku???? aku doesnt preach suicide to its students. i am sorry but i have to say this: the individual committing the suicide is physically himself responsible for his act. and there can be no litigation on the institution where the suicide occurred since the institution didnt endorse the act in any way. period. Recommend

  • Observer
    Apr 22, 2010 - 1:21PM

    @ Mary Hass

    i dont know what sort of problems your niece faced so i cannot assume anything and make comparisons.
    but as an AKU student i know for a fact that majority of our problems are very much solvable; its mere lack of concern and devotion on part of the administration.
    No one is complaining that med school is tuff : we appreciate that well
    but student life as made by the current environment is the cause of concern here.
    And not all students have a strong emotional composure, so you cannot assume everyone can hang in there……
    if things go on the same way someone will give in and will Hang himself.

    and ill tell u guys something else, there was another suicide in AKU about 16 years ago and things were evaluated and some reforms were suggested in student life…… TO DATE none has been introduced in practice.Recommend

  • anon.
    Apr 22, 2010 - 3:33PM

    Its quite amazing to see AKU students complaining about petty issues like there being no AC in the hostel. I am an AKU student and shifted to the hostel for a few months during a tough rotation. I agree that hostel life isn’t easy and there are a few issues like bed bugs, but I’m sorry to tell you guys that you really need to open your eyes and look at bigger issues here. AKU is one the top universities of the country and the reason behind the suicide rate at top unis being high is not the administration. If you are blaming the ‘system’ then students themselves are the most intergral part of that. When i shifted to the hostel i faced these issues too, but what depressed me the most was how every class is divided in groups and nobody cares about what people outside their so called group are going through. Whether they are struggling with english or academics or hanging themselves to death. There is too much division and that certainly isn’t the admin’s fault. So look within yourself and try to make life at AKU better by being nice yourself and quit spoiling the image of your own university like fools. I’m proud to be a part of AKU. Recommend

  • sadsid
    Apr 22, 2010 - 4:41PM

    to Anonymous : file a case on AKUH because that Kid was missing for 2 days and NOBODY even noticed, and oh they found a suicide note, maybe u shud ask what was written in it. Recommend

  • shez
    Apr 22, 2010 - 5:31PM

    how “mummy daddy” do you have to be to say lack of air conditioning, small Television sets and the like can force someone to take their life.

    I am amazed. you guys have no idea how good you have it.

    In most hostels in Pakistan, ur luck if ur not harassed. literally. what gets students through it all is their friends.

    but its much more convenient to blame someone else, and while at it why not ask for things to make ur stay more comfortable.Recommend

  • nihsa
    Apr 22, 2010 - 7:49PM

    *It is with great regret that one learns of such a case. It isn’t uncommon amongst the youngersters to end their lives. It is most unfortunate and for sure we have to do something about it.

    In the western world God alone knows how many young people commit suicide….there is tremendous help out in the west, yet they end up taking their lives.

    There has to be more mitigating circumstances for this act then meets the eye. I believe the school is quiet until they find out the truth..and also they are advised by the authority to keep it quiet as people tend to add their own two bits and sometimes evidence becomes harder to obtain.

    This issue about being a “loner” seems contradictory in this case for he was an avid sportsman, student yet he would become a recluse. It isn’t not heard of but surely someone close to him should have reported this? And we should have and I am positive we do have counselling in the School.

    Our prayers go out to the parents and family of the deceased, his friends and dear ones…also to the students who had to bear this.

    I strong advise ALL THE STUDENTS/FACULTY MEMEBERS to read the book…”IN THE POWER OF NOW” by Eckart Tolle…amazing and interesting story. I guarantee you will change your way of thinking.Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Apr 22, 2010 - 9:58PM

    It is not at all AKUs responsibility to knock on every student’s door every day of the year …. nowhere is it written in any university’s charter that it has to baby sit its students. and why should u get to know what is written in the note? have u stopped to think that maybe the note was meant only for the family. i think its good aku hasn’t released the notes contents to the media or other students. kudos. Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Apr 23, 2010 - 1:00AM

    easier said than done

    If u want to compare this hostel with other places in the country try comparing their monthly fees aswell. that will open your eyes.
    no AC in the hostel and every bathroom of the Hospital is Air Conditioned. the hostel fees had increased by more than 100% in the last two years……
    it is soo freaking hot in the hostel, you go to bed at night and wake up drenched in your own sweat. dont even talk about the afternoons.
    i bet when u spent that one tough month u didnt wash your clothes even…… well most of us have to do that too and guess what the machines are also not working…..no one is complaining of the hardships… the problem is the facilities are not there… and if they are they are not working… so get the problems str8.

    it pains every hostelite to pay thru the nose and get nothing in return.

    And Mr sensitive how many hostelites have you invited over to your own place ever ??
    charity begins at home…..

    the real problem is everyone wants to come out with their own formula to explain that the students are wrong …..Be that our administration or the people commenting here………… no one wants to solve the little issues that have culminated into extreme agitation and ever growing frustration. Recommend

  • ASB
    Apr 23, 2010 - 3:44AM

    I maybe completely wrong in my assumption(and I apologize in advance) but to me it looks like that most of the AKU bashing is coming from the students and most of the objective rationale is coming from the alumni.

    Kids, we were there too… We know the good in that place as well as the bad… Yes, a lot of things can be improved; but that does not mean we turn this into a drumhead trial. Rather than blindly letting a lack of perspective and a disregard for ones good fortune dictate your actions, why don’t you reflect on what can be done rather than what was not done. We also complained a lot while we were in your place but only now after experiencing life more realistically do we (at least i) understand how wrong we reacted back then. Its always easy to blame you know… I too did a lot of it but I now know I was wrong…

    We tried to improve the system further for you guys while we were there. Why don’t you build upon that and make it better for the next generation? Try and ensure tomorrow will be better.

    Anyone can complain but very few realize the need to ‘do’ rather than just ‘say’ Recommend

  • fahad
    Apr 23, 2010 - 7:55AM

    Anyone heard about BIPOLAR DISORDER.

    The problem with BIPOLAR disorder is that they are harder to detect as the person generally acts normal especially during the mania phase, but slowly starts to withdraw. The suicide is the result of extreme pain caused not by an external factor but by a lack of feeling and purpose which pervades the mind and generally lasts for months. Suicides are extremely high with BIPOLAR disorders in young kids because they are more impulsive. Bipolar in older patients is not as lethal as it is in younger kids.

    I just hope that people stopped blaming the university for the death, i have personally seen worse universities and people flunking happily. Real life is even tougher, its alrite if somebody wants to stay a kid forever but its not gonna happen. Wait till you have a boss and an office and then you’ll miss your university.Recommend

  • anon.
    Apr 23, 2010 - 11:51AM

    @ anonymous
    so ur telling me tht people are depressed and wish to take their own lives cuz of the extreme heat and tht there is no AC in the hostel :S.

    i know there are problems but we this isn’t relevant here, people wouldn’c commit suicide because of these petty issues. Recommend

  • anon.
    Apr 23, 2010 - 11:58AM

    @ anonymous

    i know there are problems but they aren’t relevant here. people wouldn’t commit suicide because of these petty issues. there is no point in mentioning them here and giving eveyone a negative image of aku. did u ever bother getting a petition or something signed from everyone in the hostel tht ACs should be allowed or all the other problems tht u have to face? i totally agree with the fact tht hostel life is tough..luckily i had frnds in the hostel and tht made life a lot easier. Recommend

  • anonymous
    Apr 23, 2010 - 1:02PM

    Its very unfortunate that a young boy took his own life Its even more unfortunate that he had financial issues which acted as a trigger to his state of mind. I hear he was depressed but more than 75% of the student body at AKU is depressed. I have also come to know that recently the institutions financial policy has changed and students could face consequences like discontinuation of studies or ineligibility for their exams, if the dont pay up on time. I’ve talked to a few students and most of them think that these changes have had a very bad impact on the students psyche.
    Med schools supposed to be stressful but the kind of feedback one gets from AKU students is horrifying. There is this general agreement on the fact that the student affairs is actually out there to harass students and on day 1 most of the students are advised by their seniors to stay way from the student affairs. Now a Dept which should help students in their time of need turns so that u have to stay away from it should be a cause of concern for the administration. After talking to the students i am convinced that the student affairs dept is creating problems for the students rather than solving them.
    One thinks that Ok the students affairs might not be very efficient or helpful but of course there will be other faculty, the Dean, Provost or president and if the students have problems they could go to them for help. Most of the students seem to have the opinion that the faculty does not have time for them most of them are bizzy with their clinics and ORs etc while some seem to think that the faculty is equally responsible for the students problems because a) They dont bother helping students and maintain a distance from them and? Regarding the Dean there are mixed opinions with most of the juniors thinking that he’s a good role model as a doc and an impressive person while most of the seniors seem to think that he is ineffective as a dean because he is mostly bizzy with his patints and does not have the time to focus on his job as a dean. Suggestions of contacting the president or the provost for help are laughed of by most of the students.
    Stop for a moment and analyze what you’ve read. Can you think of anything that could make the situation any more depressing? I was shocked by the condition of this institution which was once created to provide quality education to the people of pakistan in an environment which is friendly and supportive of students. What has it come to now? With Depresion as prevelant as 75% and conditions like these there are other Ashfaqs ready to do the same. Even if they dont do what Ashfaq did is it Ok to expose a teenager to conditions like these where he thinks of taking his own life? No. it certainly isn’t.
    The most important step in preventing such tragedies from occurring is to realize that there is something wrong with the system. The notion that don’t blame the institution because you supposedly love it is “Peter Pan” thinking. Its very easy to say that Ashfaq was depressed and he took his own life. While i think it did play a major part in his decision to end his life but where do you expect depresion to be cured if not in a hospital. He had the best treatment available at the best hospital in pakistan. Why wasn’t he guided to it? I wouldn’t blame the students for this. I dont expect a teenager to take another teenager to a psych clinic. It was the job of his teachers, his mentors and the administration as a whole to help him seek help. They failed at doing that but now someone has to make them realize that they failed at it, is shocking to say the least. Recommend

  • sadsid
    Apr 23, 2010 - 1:41PM

    Everybody is repsonsible: the Admin , the classmates & the Alumnus. The Admin for saying we r really good , its the kid who had problems. the Alumnus becoz they never returned to say ‘hey there needs to be changes so that the ppl after us don’t have to suffer , and really thing need to change’. the classmates for being so aloof , indifferent , inhuman , not even bothering to ask ‘hey one of us is missing , has anyone seen him?’.

    in med school all students are in some group ,where were the group members of this kid. how hectic were ur classes that u dint even bother to notice the guy in ur group is missing. this is appalling. Not one person , no one from his batch , from his hostel , wondered ‘hey where is he , lemme trying call him’. And these are our future doctors, going to save lives.. Recommend

  • SS
    Apr 23, 2010 - 4:57PM

    The suicide (even the mere death) of a peer can be traumatic for fellow students. Has AKU set up any professional counselling or support service for students who are processing this loss and tragedy?Recommend

  • Rafaya Sufi
    Apr 23, 2010 - 7:48PM

    Please proofread and copyedit your articles before publishing things like, “Stop other Ishfaqs from happening.”
    A level of respected is expected while talking about a deceasedRecommend

  • Aku alumnus
    Apr 24, 2010 - 12:42AM

    no one is responsible actually. the classmates do not have a duty to babysit other classmates. neither do the alumnni and admin have this duty. the alumni of aku are generally very helpful to juniors whenever they have asked them for help. but how will they know how to help if ppl will not ask for it…. and yes, if they help someone, it is out of the goodness of their hearts but it is not a responsibility, it is not a legal obligation. hence, no case can be made against anyone. Recommend

  • sadsid
    Apr 24, 2010 - 12:36PM

    to aku alumnus above:
    i guess u make a very valid point. it is indeed no one’s duty or obligation to look after another. but it can be considered a moral obligation rather than a legal one. Recommend

  • ASB
    Apr 24, 2010 - 4:28PM

    for sadsis above:

    Where does one draw the line for helping others? Smarter people before us have been trying to figure this one out for a long time. Suppose a depressed suicidal person has financial issues which you fix temporarily, do you continue to provide financial aid for the rest of your life? Suppose that person has personal issues, how far do you intervene? Suppose that person has terminal cancer and wants to end his misery, what do you do? Suppose a med student regrets coming to med school and wants to kill himself, do you babysit that person till graduation? Or till when?

    Yes, we as doctors do have an obligation to help people, but there comes a time when you need to draw a line. as cruel as it may sound, that’s the harsh reality of life. I am not saying one needs to become a cold hearted indifferent person, but you need to realize sometimes things are a little more complex than we assume. Recommend

  • anon.
    Apr 24, 2010 - 8:30PM

    Rozan’s Youth Helpline: 0800 22444. This is a national toll free number (regular landline charges for calls from mobile phones). Confidential phone counseling is available seven days a week from 10.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.Recommend

  • anon
    Apr 25, 2010 - 10:42AM

    why should medicine be any different from any other profession and its not? we, as doctors, are paid to provide a service to people. just like any other profession. ppl need to understand this point clearly. i agree with ASB above. doctors need to draw a line and this should be communicated to the public. Recommend

  • fahad
    Apr 25, 2010 - 2:00PM

    Argh…..why isn’t anyone talking about BIPOLAR disorder!!

    People don’t commit suicide due to external stress, even if they do then that is very rare. Suicide in young kids is generally the result of a mental disorder called BIPOLAR or MANIC DEPRESSIVE syndrome, and the suicide is caused by an internal lack of emotions, sense of purpose, anxiety and anguish caused primarily by this disorder. The pain caused by this emotional imbalance is unique and in most cases unbearable and young impulsive kids tend to take their own lives.

    Its a lack of awareness about such disorders which led to this person’s death. Ashfaq probably never knew what hit him or why he was in such unbearable mental anguish that he had to end his life, if he had known that it was a rather common disorder and their are ways out and medications that could regulate his emotions then the situation would have been entirely different.

    BIPOLAR disorder is the leading cause of death in young adults. Real life is tough and if external stress leads to suicide then there would have been some correlation between poverty and suicide rates which doesn’t exist, and countries like Japan wouldn’t have such high suicide rates. Japanese universities are way better than ours but their suicide rates are almost 10 times ours. Stop blaming anyone and treat this matter in medical termsRecommend

  • anon
    Apr 25, 2010 - 5:21PM

    there is no need to treat this matter in strictly medical terms. sorry, but this was not a case of bipolar disorder per se… there were clear precipitating events . Recommend

  • Old doc
    Apr 25, 2010 - 11:08PM

    I graduated from AKU decades ago and lived in the hostel for some time. First AKU suicide occured within the first five years of the med school inauguration. The diversity and the student body remains unchanged over this period of time. Like any other major Universities around the world ( not necessarily medical) there is tremendous variation amonst the students. Remember, just by the fact that these are highly selected over achievers, coming from various geographical and cultural backgrounds, they all have different outlook and expectations from both within and without. What is different about AKU and the students there (compared to other places offering rigorous curriculum) is that there is not enough emphasis to life outside the books ( for students) and curriculum. Emphasis on liberal arts, literature, drama is not existent. What happened to book clubs, debate societies, music and sports. Students and faculty have such a narrow focus on life- stresses of medical school pale against residencies and real world practice. What bails you out is some time “taking a breather”


    Apr 25, 2010 - 11:31PM


  • Apr 26, 2010 - 10:57AM


    Well their are clear precipitating events in everyone’s life, but everyone’s not going to commit suicide. To kill yourself requires a level of motivation which can only be achieved due to some inherent mental disorder. And i have yet to meet someone in this world who isn’t stressed for some reason or the other. There were no classes and the exams were over hence it was the most relaxed time at AKU. I have seen people with more stress than that and are still living happily. I have seen people who have lost their entire family and all finanical stability and have lived to tell the tale. External stress is never the source of suicide.

    Bipolar disorder is the number one cause of death in young adults. It beats all sorts of diseases and accidents.

    We need to educate people about BIPOLAR disorders, especially in universities and early career levels. If symptoms are detected then proper treatment could be done. Simple lithium consumption works for most manic depressive individuals.Recommend

  • sadsid
    Apr 26, 2010 - 1:09PM

    to aku alumnus & ASB: here’s another thing to look into , suicide is the extremest form of depression. just becoz in the last 16 yrs there has been 1 suicide , that does not mean that these akuh students & the ones before them have not suffered depression as a result of being in med school. yes we know, by no means is medicine an easy path.

    Does anyone remember this kid called Waseem Bhutta. he was either in Baqai or Akuh , his suicide many yrs ago created alot furore too but eventually lost heat. Recommend

  • areeba
    Apr 26, 2010 - 9:50PM

    another sad,depressing story.the suicidal rates especially amongst teenagers and youths are increasing day by day.we can’t blame AKU for that.the real reason lies behind the fact that in this rat race everyone runs for the best,and those who can’t bear this stress or burden do end up committing suicides.and to survive in this world u need to be a part of this race.though ishfaq’s case do seem to be contradictory.how can a student who was the sportsman of the year end up being a loner?as witnessed by most of us such students are the lime lights!

    but the bottom line is all this needs to be stopped!Recommend

  • anonymous
    Apr 27, 2010 - 6:29AM

    It is in fact a moment of shock for all of us especially those close to him and his family. But what put me into dispair is the reaction that the students of AKU are showing. I cannot definitely say anything about the problems they face as students at the school but the generalization seems quite problematic. Interestingly the questions about the “suicidal note” and many questions that the news network has first set has been taken as a premise and set up the tone of the discussion every one else has undertaken. No body so far really knows about the developments in the investigation. I don’t intend to enter into the discussion for I feel I am not in a position to make judgements about someone’s committing suicide. Stress might have a correlation with the environment of both the physical and mental work but when does it lead to an outcome of such kind is not verifiable. I am still going through stress for I feel it hard to compete with my peers. My background differs, my culture differs. I have to stay awake for the whole night and then go to the class directly for I have to participate in the seminar classes and I am never finished with the readings I am supposed to. Never has this kind of feeling come to me. Thinking about taking own’s life is not such a simple and easy thing that can be attributed to the “doings” and “not doings” of the institution, though I believe they have their part to play in other ways.

    Let me tell you a disturbing fact about suicide in the village to which Ashfaq belonged— those that have happened in the course of the last decade. This one was the fourth. Shafqat, a guy from his village committed suicide with a gun at home whose first cousin graduated from AKU last year, nobody knows till now what had been the cause. Four years after that Ashfaq’s real elder brother Khalid who used to be a brilliant student and who was my very good friend and classfellow committed suicide. He had hung himself with the fan. I don’t know if he had left some suicidal note but not every one knows what compelled him to go for that. This is something to really ponder on.

    Ashfaq’s eldest brother graduated from AKUSON two years ago. His mother was told that it was an accident but this brother infuriated by the news instead of sorrow went to her and said, “mother! these people are lying to you. He….your coward son committed suicide”.

    Ashfaq’s one elder brother is studying in Peshawar. When he heard about the news, he proclaimed, “it was my turn. Why did he do?”.

    I request all of those who have taken up the opportunity to blame the institution so bluntly, to just keep these facts in mind and do reassess their mega narratives. Recommend

  • Farhana Khawar
    Apr 27, 2010 - 6:46AM

    Some important measure must be taken like performance evaluation of the staff. The fee should be reduced to make it affordable so the AKDN development activities should not be at the cost of some one’s life. As the parents are spending too much on their children as fee of AKU and expecting them to come out of the university as soon as possible, that causes intolerable study stress. Secondly every student of AKU must know that AKU doctors are not treated different then the doctors from other medical colleges Pakistan out of country specially in USA and Canada. None of the western country accepts the degree of AKU as license to practice as doctor in western world. So don’t get crazy to be student of AKU. AKU has fellowship agreement with some medical schools in USA and Canada. After graduating from AKU one can come and study for another 3-5 years in these schools to get a license to work as doctor in these countries.
    Farhana khawar
    Ontario Canada Recommend

  • Anon
    Apr 27, 2010 - 12:34PM

    Iam AKU grad and had been student representative last year,,and during that year two students were at the brink of suicide due to the “NEW” financial issues,the worse thing is that the admin knew bout these ,and WERE TOLD by many,including myself that someone will take his/her life and dont PUSH students too far,,,, i made my case,,last year,,5 mins efore the annual proff exam,,Ishfaq came to me with tears in his eyes that the admin is not allowing him to sit in the Xam ,,,he had the same worries as i have been told by many who were close to him,,,, stop defending AKU,,, coz if we dont solve this now many more will come.Recommend

  • A. malik
    Apr 27, 2010 - 2:38PM

    It is indeed a great tragedy but as usual the comments left in this site are disturbing. I am not from pakistan but the comments left in any negative case are always against Pakistan or a institution is generalized. Saying AKU ‘murdered’ the student is unjust and unfair.

    Moving to a new city , univerisity is always stressful. Even in america. The depression rate is high among freshmen students and beyond. The nature of university life is stressful and people seperation anxiety due to leaving familiar surroundings.

    Yes a support system is needed. Faculty/Admin should help in the devolpment of that And as far as I know aku has a pretty good student life. Beyond that, all students who did not notice a fellow classmate for 2 DAYS should look at themselves first. The faculty can’t hold your hands and give you everything in a silver platter. Your grownups now…go make and create a social life/activities. I know plenty people in the unites states who had a great life in AKU.

    But life’s problems will not be solved by the ‘blame game’. “Oh we don’t have a support system” lets blame the faculty. Depression and bi-polar disorder are seroius issues. A psychiatrist can only help you to an extent. But when one plunges into the arms of suicide it can not be prevent. More support is needed from home and if not leaving at home in the dormitory.

    Humanity still exists in this world and we all should be more human. Stop forming cliques and be open minded. Medical school is tough as it is…but that’s life.

    I hope this never happens again in the future.Recommend

  • A. malik
    Apr 27, 2010 - 2:47PM

    This comment is in reply to Farhana Khawar :

    You said and I quote:

    “Secondly every student of AKU must know that AKU doctors are not treated different then the doctors from other medical colleges Pakistan out of country specially in USA and Canada. None of the western country accepts the degree of AKU as license to practice as doctor in western world. So don’t get crazy to be student of AKU.”

    strong text Where did you get this information from and are you from AKU? What AKU LICENSE are you talking about? You can’t practice in usa/canada with just a medical degree even if you graduate from america. All students whether U.S . or AKU studenta must take the usmle exams step 1, 2, 3 and attain a good score. Then they apply for residency training in (e.g. medicine , surgery etc) in order to train in america.

    AKU STUDENTS ARE ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES training in different fields and practicing medicine after training. YOU can attain this information by the alumni association to see what percentage of people are where.

    Also, with all due respect AKU students have a very good repuation than any other medical school in pakistan. The educational system/methodology is different and on average majority of the students are accepted for training.

    I know this because it is in my plain site working in this area. Please backup opionions with facts so one doesn’t cause misintreptation of information.Recommend

  • sadsid
    Apr 27, 2010 - 3:08PM

    to Anon above:
    You should take this matter up with the Admin immediately. If what you are saying is indeed the case , then by all means raise your voice. why wait till after your degree to save lives. Save them now. Get everyone & anyone to sign a petition , protest or write to newspapers. but do something , now before another kid loses hope.Recommend

  • anonymous
    Apr 27, 2010 - 8:50PM

    Was it AKU which led his elder brother commit suicide few years ago? Was the AKU responsible for another guy from the same village committing suicide in 2000? We,the people from Chitral have been asking these questions ourselves. Is there something else as well that needs to be addressed? Also, his family is not that worse off compared to many other students’ families from Chitral who are studying outside Chitral. He was quite aloof, unsocial but is it the university that is responsible to provide you with friends or you make them? The high class social strata of the society of which AKU’s every batch admits a significant percentage based on their sound schooling don’t even feel like getting along with those who don’t belong to their “class” (though there are exceptions). They blame the institution for it not being able to provide them with the kind of social environment they want. And they are the ones who also blame the diversity.

    Don’t all of those who are students of AKU consider themselves a part of it? Is the use of drugs and alcohol only the result of the stress out of exam and studies or something else as well. Do they take it only during exams or it is and has been part of the things they do in leisure time as well?

    Don’t doctors have to resist very stressful situations….much stressful than issue of money, exams and having no friends?

    I don’t mean to say AKU is an ideal place but feel sorry for the kind of disparity that the comments of the proud AKU students manifest. I am pretty sure they would have never taken a moment to ponder on the time they were making the conscious decisions when joining the institute.

    They will move on…forget about it….I still feel I won’t be able to meet Ashfaq’s mother for I remember how she cried when her elder son had done the same and we went for condolence..(he was my class fellow and a very close friend) Recommend

  • Apr 27, 2010 - 11:45PM

    AKU surely has an attitude problem, one which pervades their doctors and nurses at the hospital next door. I am a first hand witness to their regretful behaviour regarding patients. Their only aim is to charge rates which a common man cannot afford. This despite the fact that Prince Karim Agha Khan had requested govt. of Pakistan – and recd. – lots of free and cheap land where now AKU and AKH stands.

    The death of this student and previous students is a stark reminder to our govt. to take strict measures and, if necessary, action against universities like AKU, which fail to provide even the most basic facilities to its students. As one student of AKU has pointed out, charging Rs.8000 / month and not allowing AC in a red brick building is a genocide-in-waiting. How will AKU defend its decision regarding students’ rights is beyond me? Recommend

  • BRJK
    Apr 28, 2010 - 6:09AM

    We pray for his soul.

    The media whether in the East or West ought to increase its readership sales, by writing stories, the writers earn a living, writing,” he said, she said”. Factual information of the person’s background is incomplete, eg is it through inheritence, changes to DNA, trauma, etc all are time consuming information, do not increase readership sales.

    Was raised in Mombasa, Kenya, travelled to India for Education purposes, lived in Pune & Bombay for 3 yrs in the’70s. Then moved to Canada. Had to go through cultural differences. You can’t buy it, but have to be survior to understand the situation. To point fingers at the situation, does not make life easy, but have to live a day rather then living.

    I came across, read a book by Dr Joseph Murphy named The Power of your Subconscious Mind. This could change individual thinking for the better. Recommend

  • eaon
    Apr 29, 2010 - 10:02PM

    well aku is not a charity… neither is it meant to be… nor striving to be.. so i think one should consider the tuition fees before applying… yes, there are waivers / loans / scholarships… but the whole class cant be on them for obvious reasons that one’s common sense should be able to comprehend easily….. also, only a fixed number of ppl can be given these from each class. so if non payment of dues results in suspension or inability to sit for end of terms, that is just a reality of life. perhaps a loan from an alternative source may be sought rather than blaming aku at the drop of every hat. Recommend

  • Clay
    May 1, 2010 - 8:42AM

    I agree with eaon above. all educational institutions charge fees for education and AKU is nothing different from them…. It very honestly tells the students about the expected fee structure / yearly increments in the prospectus …. so that students should know what to expect…. Recommend

  • Ikia
    May 1, 2010 - 2:06PM

    True… there are no free meals in the world. get used to it ppl! Recommend

  • ASB
    May 1, 2010 - 10:56PM

    For Ameer.

    AKU is a private institute. It tries to provide financial aid for its students and patients but it is not required to do so. Blaming aku for its rates (which I might add are quite reasonable compared to other private medical colleges and private hospitals) is equal to going to a restaurant, ordering food and then whining about the bill. Why come to aku for studies or treatment when you can’t afford it? I am sorry, but aku is not a charity, nor does it claim to be. The same is true for everything else in life. That’s the harsh reality. Countless people worldwide are denied basic necessaties of life because of financial reasons. That’s a sign of a failed society, not one institution. Recommend

  • rashid abbas
    May 2, 2010 - 2:12AM

    i’m student of akuson yr 4 student. late Ashfaq ( rip) was gr88 person having nice personality. he was much closer to the northern state people. we had great time playing volleyball and recently he participated in HEC inter university volleyball championship . he was a fantastic spiker and team member. unfortunatly he is not with us and AKU voley ball will mis him for ever.
    may GOD rest him in peace and pray for mushkil asaan for his soul. ameen !Recommend

  • jeedan
    May 2, 2010 - 9:53AM

    i guess isfaq was planning suicide. i am saying this because he has returned me the tape recorder couple of days before that incident which i have given it to him. secondly he seemed insomniac as he himself said couple of days ago that he cant sleep at night. Recommend

  • Omi
    May 2, 2010 - 9:51PM

    I am sorry but returning once borrowed items is not one of the red flags of suicide… atleast not yet. insomnia maybe.Recommend

  • anonymous
    May 12, 2010 - 7:57AM

    i m a med student here at AKU and i donno why,today,,i also felt like taking my life ,infact,i had hard time convincing me not to :( i donno why i am writing this,,,i guess i am trying to reach out for help, but honestlty i donno, i guess i am confused.Recommend

  • Sep 14, 2010 - 8:30PM

    Anybody interested in knowing what really happens in AKU, please contact me.Recommend

More in Pakistan