Why not organs from cadavers?

By Zubeida Mustafa

75-18-06-1993.AOrgan transplantation technology was introduced in the West in 1904 when the first corneal graft operation was performed in a New York hospital. The first kidney was transplanted in Boston in 1954. Today, surgeons in the Third World have adopted the technology with a growing measure of confidence and success. Nearly 40,000 transplantations are being performed every year all over the world and this technology has come to stay.

As happens in the case of any scientific breakthrough, many related issues, especially of an ethical nature, are now being debated. The 1 Institute of Urology and Transplantation, Civil Hospital Karachi, which has kept up a constant exchange of views and expertise with transplantation surgeons in Western centres, recently played host to two eminent gentlemen from the Royal Free Hospital, London. Dr Oswald Fernando, a surgeon from Sri Lanka, and Dr Zac Verghese, a basic scientist from India, have worked in Britain since 1963. They are therefore well placed to understand the challenges transplantation technology faces in the socio-economic conditions of the Third World. Continue reading Why not organs from cadavers?

Education Foundations off to a poor start

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT WAS in his budget speech in May 1991 that the Federal Finance Minister first broached the idea of setting up education foundations to “expand the opportunity for private investment in education”. At that time the proposal had proved to be highly controversial, mainly in conceptual terms. Many found it unacceptable that public funds be channelled into private hands for educating children, presumably for a fee.74-12-06-1993

Two years later, when the veritable thrust in the government’s policy towards the privatisation of the national economy and the social sectors has been unequivocally established, it is plain that the education foundation scheme is here to stay. It still has a number of detractors, though. But this time the criticism is not so much on ideological grounds, with the exception of the voices raised from some diehards on the Left. It is the government’s handling of its own brainchild that is the cause of serious concern. Continue reading Education Foundations off to a poor start

Population control: the ‘woman factor’

By Zubeida Mustafa

Population planning has been a highly contentious issue eversince men — as well as women — decided to intervene in the natural process of procreation to regulate demographic trends. The controversy has centred round the strategies adopted and the rationale advanced for slowing down population growth rates.

A new dimension was added to the debate when population became a North-South issue, as the industrialised states afraid of being swamped by Third World immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers began demanding that the developing countries take measures to check what has been termed as the population explosion. Continue reading Population control: the ‘woman factor’

The cheating syndrome

By Zubeida Mustafa

72-26-03-1993.ANine years ago, a fresh medical graduate who had been deeply perturbed by the unabashed resort to cheating by his fellow- students in the final professional MBBS examination requested me to write about it. His greatest concern was that doctors who became doctors by copying in exams and not on the strength of their knowledge would be a serious health hazard.

What began as a scourge in the medical colleges of Karachi is rampant in practically all examinations in Pakistan today. Only a few private institutions now manage to conduct examinations honestly. The magnitude of this problem is coming to be recognised, not so much because of a realisation that it is eating away at the base of our education system and undermining the credibility of our academic institutions, as on account of the outcry from the foreign aid donors.

What leaves no room for optimism, though, is the fact that many of those who alone are in a position to eliminate this evil have been its beneficiaries. Thus how can one really expect any improvement in the system when many of the university and college teachers who conduct examinations and the bureaucrats in the Education Department who formulate policies could be holding the positions that they do by virtue of their having themselves had recourse to unfair means in examinations.

The fact is that in the last few years the cheating virus has found its way into the universities and the civil services exams as well. What is even more disquieting is that those who are expected to reform the system have failed to understand the dynamic of the cheating syndrome. Hence the bizarre strategies that are being suggested. The Prime Minister has been speaking of taking drastic measures against those caught resorting to malpractices, such as trying them in speedy trial courts.

The Masood Nabi Nur Commission appointed by the Punjab government to evaluate the examination system and the eradication of malpractices suggested severe and exemplary punishment to cheaters. Recently the education authorities in Punjab even proceeded to disqualify 6000 students who resorted to malpractices in their examinations — though one cannot be too sure that they have not already used their connections to get the cases against them withdrawn.

But will such ad hoc measures, even if they are very harsh, by themselves help restore credibility to the examinations conducted in the country?

Given the fact that every sector of national life is being seriously eroded as unqualified graduates, engineers, doctors, administrators and other professionals enter the mainstream of the economy, administration and the health and education sectors, the need to tackle the problem of cheating in examinations needs to be addressed in ‘earnest. With the large majority of the students who pass out of our schools, colleges and universities not academically fit for the degree or certificate they have obtained by clearing their examinations by fraudulent methods the country is heading for total collapse

The blame for this phenomenon is placed largely on the examination system which is not a true test of a candidate’s intellect, creativity, academic ability or knowledge. But one can well ask, was our testing method ever an accurate yardstick of a student’s scholarship and creative thinking? Yet previously the cheaters were the exception to the rule. By and large most students attempted to solve their question papers to the best of their ability. The few who did use unfair means were invariably caught and debarred.

The rise in the incidence of cheating in examinations points to two basic facts of life in Pakistan. First, it is.a manifestation of the process of disintegration of the moral fibre of Pakistani society. If the norm is for a customs officer to accept bribe to exempt some goods from the duty that must lawfully be levied, for an income tax officer to accept illegal gratification to help a businessman evade taxes, for an MNA to obtain licenses and bank loans by virtue of his clout, or for a policeman to use his gun to commit dacoity, what is so unusual about a student who cheats in his examinations? All of these are cases of people seeking the easy way to material advancement without any regard for morality and honesty.

Be that as it may, corruption should not be condoned in any sector, including examinations. But cheating in exams is symbolic of something more: the erosion of our education system and its irrelevance to the needs of the people. Since the valueless degrees are linked to the limited employment market, the paper chase and not the acquisition of knowledge has become indispensable.

One must commend the authorities in the Punjab for at least showing more concern at the erosion of the education system which is signified by the cheating syndrome. Whether they will succeed in finding an answer to the problem is not so certain. The province was the first to set up a commission to look into the malpractices in examinations. The Masood Nabi Nur Commission has come out with a report that is interesting and instructive but will not take us far.

One of the most damaging aspects of our examination methods it has identified is: exams have become trendsetters for classroom instruction and home studies. Since schools and colleges teach not to impart knowledge but only to guide their pupils in passing the Board and University examinations the standard of education has gone down.

The Commission comes out with imaginative testing strategies, including a model question paper, as well as other recommendations to instil discipline in the students, such as holding of Zuhr prayers in school and the introduction of a two-year compulsory military draft for all students of 17 years of age.
Methods such as changing over to the objective type of questions, introducing mechanisation in issuing roll numbers and compilation of results, check on the character of paper setters and invigilators, etc will help reduce examination malpractices to an extent only. Many of them have been tried before and have been found to be impracticable in our circumstances. Moreover, it needs to be stressed that if the underlying causes remain unchanged, the candidates will find novel methods to get round the new restrictions.

While recommendations to eliminate cheating in the examination halls and to check examiners, paper setters and result compilers from leaking question papers, giving wrong marks or changing the marks of candidates should be welcome, they can at best be stop-gap measures. What is essential is that the entire education system is revamped so that it becomes a compulsion for the students to study and acquire knowledge rather than obtain a paper degree by fraudulent means.

There is need to vitalise education and link it to the functional needs of society. A glance at our shoddy textbooks which have no bearing on the students and the life they lead is enough to convince anyone of the futility of sending a child to school. Added to this is the factor of corruption and ineptitude of many of the teachers which compounds the situation. A product of the same system, they fail to inspire their pupils or motivate them to acquire knowledge. They exert no moral influence on the young minds, hence they cannot be expected to serve as a force in eliminating cheating.

It is time the citizens took matters into their own hands. Obviously the government’s roie is basic because as the controlling authority it alone can implement the changes which are perceived to be necessary. But citizens, especially the parents of children who are suffering from the rot in the education sector, should come forward to form pressure groups. A concerned father suggests that a citizens’ committee on the pattern of the Citizens- Police Liaison Committee should be set up to make the education authorities accountable for their policies.

The first step it would be required to take would be to tackle the cheating syndrome but this should be in the wider context of education reforms. Otherwise not much would be achieved. The committee should not operate as a parallel education authority. It should seek to get the reforms formulated and implemented through the existing education authorities, heads of institutions and the teachers’ bodies, putting pressure on them to act where action is necessary.

For instance, a beginning could be made by having the curricula redesigned and the textbooks rewritten accordingly. This would obviously apply to the teachers training courses too. But it would take years before enough teachers are produced who are motivated enough and trained in the new teaching methodologies to create an impact on the.existing system. The country cannot afford to wait that long. Hence in the meantime, crash courses and workshops to reorient our teaching methods should be devised. Thus in-service training of the teachers should be made compulsory so that the beginnings of change become perceptible. The stage has been reached where parents and the public have begun to show concern. This concern should now be channelled into tangible action.

A student speaks

“I did not cheat in my last examinations. But I was one of the few exceptions — one of the five out of 275 students in my class. But I can tell you that it was very frustrating being scrupulously honest because I got no immediate rewards for my integrity.

“In order not to cheat I had to study and work hard. That was something I was not really expected to do. For instance, I remember I really slogged over my journal to make it perfect. When I went for my practical examination, the examiner could not even be bothered to look at the journal. He just marked me . without as much as opening the journal. I felt badly let down that he did not even want to see my work.

“Even though I did not cheat I can quite well understand why my colleagues cheat. Many of our teachers are hopeless. What is worse they do not want to take their classes. You will not believe, we did not have a single lecture in some of our subjects. When we complained, no one would listen. How would you expect the students who have not been taught anything not to cheat. “As for the moral aspect, I think they couldn’t care less. Since no teacher is a role model, the students are not motivated to be honest. Besides, many of the teachers are so dishonest themselves that they are not on a moral highground from where they can ask the students not to cheat.

“I admit that the students are also at fault. They don’t attend classes, which would be discouraging for the rare teacher who wants to teach. The student parties create problems of indiscipline and terrorise the teachers as well as the students. That gives the teachers a pretext not to teach. It is a vicious cycle which will have to be broken somehow.

“The whole system is corrupt. I didn’t cheat because I think one can criticise others only if one has been honest oneself. I don’t want to be a part of the system which I want to change. For that I tried to keep myself out of it. I felt extremely isolated. But now I can point out what is wrong, and my moral position is strong.”

Source: Dawn 26 March 1993


The courage behind the laughter

By Zubeida Mustafa
The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs is one of the oldest research institutions in the country. In the 1970s, which were years of change for the institute, Khalida Qureshi’s steady presence and devoted and meticulous work gave continuity and stability to this organisation which she served for over two decades. As the Director of Research, hers was the key role in keeping PIIA’s research tradition alive at the leanest period in its history.

It was November 1956. The Suez crisis had thrown the Middle East in a turmoil. A summit of the Muslim members of the Baghdad Pact was being held in the Iraqi capital. The visiting leaders had been invited to dinner by Pakistan’s ambassador, Mr Shuaib Qureshi.

Suddenly word came that Shah Faisal of Iraq had expressed the desire to accompany President Iskander Mirza to the dinner. In those days of yore, the Iraqi monarchs did not as a matter of royal protocol go to embassy parties. Hence this was an honor for Pakistan.


A wave of excitement ran through the mission. The hostess was Khalida Qureshi, the ambassador’s daughter, who deputed for her late mother. She was very young at the time. But what she lacked in experience she made up in charm and hospitality. In the short time available she managed to have everything set for the royal guests.

But in her nervousness and eagerness to have everything in perfect order, Khalida forgot to mind her step when she went to receive King Faisal. It was only later when the photographs came in that she discovered to her great horror that it was she who was occupying the place of honour in the middle of the red carpet that had specially been laid for the monarch’s reception. The royal visitor had, been edged off the carpet. Years later, this was an incident Khalida would recount with good humour. There were many more such faux pas in her repertoire of lively anecdotes that made her such an excellent conservationist. One never tired of listening to her. She possessed the art of converting the most embarrassing of situations into an occasion for laughing at herself.

Then there was the story of the broken shoe. At a formal diplomatic party thrown by the British ambassador in Baghdad, Khalida felt the heel of her Cindrella-like shoe come off no sooner than she had entered. As she struggled to discreetly kick away the offending object,* the host noticed her predicament and came to her rescue.

The shoe was promptly dispatched for repairs and brought back on a silver salver.
But there was something more in the anecdotes that Khalida had to tell: her inborn sense of humour. It was this quality that made her the life of every gathering. It also made her a lovable person who put others at ease, for the jokes at her own expense conveyed the message, “I am after all human and not infallible.”

I first met her at the Karachi University after we were admitted in the International Relations department. She was well-travelled and as the hostess of the parties thrown by her ambassador father Khalida had had many interesting encounters with people whose names now figure in contemporary history. She spoke about her experiences with natural ease making them interesting and entertaining. I learnt infinitely more from these discourses than from the theoretical text of the books on diplomacy. Khalida’s light-heated demeanor could be quite deceptive though. One had to know her better to detect the rock-like courage and seriousness of purpose which lay beneath her jovial exterior. They kept her going through adversity, inspiring others who met her.

For hers was not quite the life a young and intelligent girl from an upper class family of high repute (her maternal grandfather was the great freedom fighter Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar whose fiery spirit of independence she inherited) is called upon to lead. She gave up her studies when her mother fell ill (and later died). This was the most challenging period of her life and given her youth and inexperience, she could have faltered. But she rose to the challenge learning much more than young women of her age were required to know as she strove to be a mother to her younger sisters and play the perfect hostess at the embassy parties.

After being mostly in the company of older people for ten years she decided to resume her studies when her father retired and settled in Karachi. Now she was called upon to adjust to the company of girls much younger in age. She did it gracefully and with good cheer. During her travels she had discovered her natural flair for foreign languages. When she went back to the university, she found that she was intrigued by the academic dimension of international affairs.

There was no looking back after that. Her interest in the subject was further stimulated by the research job she took up at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs where she worked for over 20 years, writing papers and reports. After the death of the founder- Secretary of the Institute, Khwaja Sarwar Hasan, Khalida was increasingly called upon to guide younger scholars and edit the research journal. She did these jobs with untiring devotion until she took final leave ten days before she died on February 23,1983. No one knew how seriously ill she was, surgery and radiotherapy having seemingly brought a remission in her cancer. But insidiously the illness was devouring her liver. She continued to be her kind and con. siderate self, forever concerned about the comfort of those who came to visit her, though all along she was fighting a losing battle against the dreaded disease.

Only once for a fleeting moment she had seemed to despair. When she discovered the lump and was due to go in for surgery she called me up. I went to see her. She would • always declare it time for tea whenever we got together. It reminded us of good old times. That day she was pensive. “I feel like packing that tin trunk we always talk about,” she sadly declared. (She was referring to an old joke we shared of wanting to run away with a trunk full of clothes whenever things seemed to be going drastically wrong in life.)

“The only problem is,” she added after a pause, “my illness will come with me wherever I go. So what good would it do running away?” Thereafter she came to terms with her illness, departing gracefully after due farewells only when her time was up. But she did not have to pack her steel trunk for her final Journey

No longer the rich man’s disease

By Zubeida Mustafa

70-30-12-1992There was a time when diabetes mellitus was regarded as the rich man’s disease. Not so any more. In fact, the data collected by epidemiologists indicate that today there is a higher incidence of this disorder in the developing countries.

Dr Peter Bennett, who is the head of the Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institute of Health, USA, has been investigating the prevalence of diabetes among the Pima Indians in America. His studies have extended.to other societies as well. “Surveys conducted over the last 15 to 20 years give very clear evidence that diabetes has been on the rise in the Third World,” Dr Bennett told me recently. He was in Karachi to attend the Regional Congress of the International Diabetes Federation. Continue reading No longer the rich man’s disease

Gift of Life

By Zubeida Mustafa

69-27-11-1992Two hundred children in Britain who faced certain death from liver failure are alive today and leading a normal, healthy life. They owe their recovery to the miracle of transplantation: the technology that allows surgeons to graft wholesome organs from one person to another.

Behind every milestone in medical science there is invariably a human story of sustained commitment and caring effort. In the case of these 200 British children the man who has made liver transplantation possible is Sir Roy Calne, a pioneer in the field of transplantology. A professor of surgery in the Cambridge University and president of the. International Transplantation Society, Dr Calne has contributed to the science of transplantation by his research on the immuno-suppressive drugs, without which no organ graft can be successful.

The defence mechanism of the human body normally ensures that it rejects foreign objects, which include organs taken from another person. Hence the use of drugs to suppress the immune reactions but in such measured doses that infections do not kill the patient. Continue reading Gift of Life

Organ transplantation has come to stay -Dr Adib Rizvi

By Zubeida Mustafa

Dr Adib Rizvi

In the early 1970s a magistrate from the interior of Sindh died of kidney failure in Civil Hospital, Karachi. This should normally not have merited a mention, especially twenty years later. Nearly 10,000 people in Pakistan come down with kidney failure every year.

But Mr Shaikh’s death, that was the magistrate’s name, proved to be an event of far-reaching consequences. In those days there were no facilities in Karachi for dialysis (let alone transplantation) — the only process by which the life of a patient of end-stage renal failure can be sustained. Mr Shaikh was sent to London where he was dialysed for a few weeks until his budget was exhausted. He was sent home with the false assurance that he was cured. He returned to Pakistan very pleased with himself looking forward to a new life. He brought as a token of his gratitude a small gift of handkerchiefs for the urologist who had attended to him in Karachi. Continue reading Organ transplantation has come to stay -Dr Adib Rizvi

Healthy tips

By Zubeida Mustafa

NANHAY DOCTOR by Iftikhar Ahmad. Illustrated by Nigar Nazar. Published by UNICEF, Pakistan. 1992.

67-17-07-1992With the changing concepts of health care — there is now greater stress on health education and preventive medicine — the need to teach people the basic principles of hygiene, nutrition and immunisation can hardly be overemphasised. In fact the sooner this process of health education and information begins, the better it is.

In this context, UNICEF’s Nanhay Doctor could not have been more Continue reading Healthy tips

Increased funding amid high scepticism over real progress

By Zubeida Mustafa

36-15-07-1988GIVEN the public outcry against the government’s failure to invest adequately in the social development of the people, the authorities in Pakistan have become more wary about making loud pronouncements about their commitment to the social sectors. What better occasion would they have of speaking about this commitment and receiving media publicity than the time of the presentation of the budgets — federal and provincial. Hence, it was no surprise that in the budget season this year each and every finance minister spoke in exaggerated terms about the social sector being his government’s major priority.

But the problem with budget speeches is that they are accompanied by budget documents and preceded by the Economic Survey which do not always substantiate the official claims. This year too the provincial governments have attempted to focus on health and education, which are central to any programme of human resource development. Although there has been an overall increase in the budgets for these two sectors, one cannot but feel sceptical about the progress that will actually be made. Continue reading Increased funding amid high scepticism over real progress