Keep cancer out of politics, Khawaja Asif
It is common knowledge that politics is a very dirty game. It can be as intricate as a game of chess, albeit one where mudslinging, backstabbing and name calling are part and parcel of the process.
Even in this murky world of politics, where honour and decency are hard to come by, there are certain unwritten, unspoken rules and boundaries that one would be loath to cross.
But in dragging a prestigious institution such as the ‘Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital’, whose sole purpose is to provide patients that are suffering from cancer with the treatment that they would otherwise never be able to afford, into their feud with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and casting aspersions to its handling of the donations it receives, the Pakistan Mulsim League- Nawaz (PML-N) has done just that.
It has crossed the very unwritten, unspoken rules and boundaries.
The PML-N alleged that Imran Khan engaged in money laundering, sending money raised through Sadqat, Fitrana, and Zakat abroad utilising various shell companies, and engaged in real estate gambling that resulted in losses of about 65%.
In a press conference, almost two hours later, Imran Khan clarified that no money was sent abroad. A percentage of money collected through charitable donations from abroad goes to the endowment fund which then invests the money to earn a profit for the hospital; this later is used to provide the sick with healthcare services, which is the hospitals main agenda.
People’s Sadqat, Fitrana and Zakat are not used for anything other than treating sick patients.
Imran Khan further clarified that the endowment fund was run by an independent board of which he was not a member. He also said that the money invested was never at risk because the hospital had been guaranteed that the investment would be protected, meaning the hospital would get any profits made by the investment, but all losses would be absorbed by Imtiaz Haideri’s company.
One could argue that the PML-N was only doing their civic duty in bringing to people’s attention some irregularities that they saw, but in my opinion, the absurdity of the claims and the ease with which the allegations were debunked, only goes to show that the main intention behind the press conference was just to tarnish Imran Khan’s name.
If the PML-N was truly concerned, they could have at least consulted with the hospital or the board before going public with unproven accusations.
On various talk shows, PML-N was asked whether they had any evidence that money was being taken out of Pakistan? To this their reply was that it is up to Imran Khan or someone from his trust to prove that this was not the case, and that if Imran Khan had an issue with their statements, he should take them to court. This only lends credence to the fact that a smear campaign is underway and no civic duties are in in anyone’s mind.
When political parties resort to ruining the reputation of charitable organisations in order to gain political mileage, the victims of that campaign are not just limited to the members of the opposition party.
As Imran Khan said,
Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital is not Imran Khan’s personal hospital; the patients are not my relatives, they are Pakistanis.
Shaukat Khanum is a charitable organisation and for it to continue to run effectively, it depends on donations. If people do not trust how their money is being utilised or handled, they will not donate. If donations dry out, then it will be the innocent patients, through no fault of their own, who will suffer in the end.
By engaging in this stunt, the PML-N has not only done a disservice to the professionals dedicating their time, effort and money to help treat the patients, but also to Pakistan as a whole.
What transpired yesterday was another shameful incident in the history of Pakistani politics, and one that has no place in any civilised political discourse.
We can only hope that the negative backlash that has resulted due to this episode will discourage any and every political party from engaging in similar tactics in the future.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.