The boy with the broken leg

Published: March 12, 2013
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Here is this little kid, whose leg has been broken for a whole year, walking around with a makeshift crutch because his parents cannot afford to take him to a doctor. PHOTO: NADEEM M QURESHI

In the last three years, since Mustaqbil Pakistan was formed, I have traveled the length and breadth of the country.

I am 57-years-old and during these last three years, I have learned more about Pakistan and the suffering of its poor than I have in the previous 54 years. Nothing really shocks me anymore. Or at least I thought so, until last Friday.

As I walked out of a meeting in the impoverished village of Hasu Balail in Central Punjab, a little boy – who I’ll call Imran – started to ‘walk’ with me. I noticed that he had a crutch and was able to use only one leg. He was ‘walking’ fast. I caught up to him and asked him to stop.

Here is my conversation with him:

‘What happened to your leg?’

…’I fell and broke it’

‘When?’

…’One year ago’.

Surprised, I asked, ‘Why did you not go to a doctor?’

Imran did not respond.

But a village resident replied, ‘His parents are poor and they cannot afford a doctor.’

I was astounded and ashamed. And I am still ashamed. Here is this little kid, whose leg has been broken for a whole year, walking around with a makeshift crutch because his parents cannot afford to take him to a doctor. And here we are – affluent Pakistanis – sitting in our comfortable homes in Pakistan, and further afield.

We pamper our children, send them to the best schools money can buy, and get them the best healthcare possible. We socialise at expensively catered dinner parties where we debate to no end the foibles of our incompetent and corrupt politicians.

Many of us try to do what we can. We support NGO’s and charities. We fund free schools and dispensaries. We give our time to social work. And these are all worthy pursuits, but they are not enough.

The problem with Pakistan is that the best of our people – educated, competent, honest and decent – stay out of politics. And who can blame them?

We know that politics in Pakistan is an unsavoury, dishonest, ruthless and dangerous business.

It attracts the lowest of our low. And so we stay away. But there is a problem here. If the best of our people opt to stay out of politics then it is inevitable that ‘the lowest’ will occupy it and run the country.

Sadly, and devastatingly for the Imrans of Pakistan, this is what has happened.

Those who think that supporting an NGO or a charity absolves us of responsibility for the suffering of millions are wrong. No number of NGO’s or charities can do the job of a country’s government. This is tantamount to applying a bandage to a cancer patient.

We must do more. We must reclaim the field of politics from the goons and thugs who now sit in our assemblies. This is not easy, but sensible and responsible people do not do things because they are easy – they do them because they are right.

Imran is perhaps an especially egregious example of an appallingly larger reality that we either do not know about or ignore. Those who have not been to Hasu Balail, or Peer Abdurahman, or Machiwal, or Keekarwala, or Rodu Sultan or Astana or thousands of other villages like these do not know the ‘real’ Pakistan.

It is a place of hopelessness and despair. Millions of people live in unimaginable conditions at the edge of humanity and they will stay there until we muster the courage and resolve to bring them home.

Even one Imran is one too many.

Follow Nadeem on Twitter @nmq

Nadeem M Qureshi

Nadeem M Qureshi

Chairman and founder of the political party Mustaqbil Pakistan, Nadeem has a business background and has studied engineering at M.I.T. in Cambridge Mass. and business. He also went to Harvard Business School in Boston. He tweets @NadeemMQureshi (twitter.com/NadeemMQureshi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • I am a Khan

    Very Sad. Has he been taken to the Doctors now? Is his leg being treated? You can take him to Al Khair foundation and charity. website alkhair.orgRecommend

  • http://gujrat RAW is WAR

    Very sad. Are there no government sponsored hospitals where treatment is free? In India we have them. Even though they are extremely bad in quality, you can expect some treatment for poor.Recommend

  • Pakistani citizen

    I think its completely wrong to think the way the author thinks because thats how we have thought all this time, that everything is govt’s responsibility. No sir, it is our responsibility as the citizens and human beings. Stop blaming govt for evrything! Unless we take the blame and do the work, we cant expect govt to do much. So why not neighbors gathered some money (i know they are poor- but even if they had some money to give they wont), or how about the employers of the kids parents? Servant kids are being abused in so many ways, and are robbed with their childhood with burden to make a living in the worst situations. We cannot blame govt for their hardships. Why dont people send the little girls they hire to take care of babies to the school for few hours in the morning? Why dont we offer tution fund/ healthcare benifits to our underpaid maids and ddrivers? Its our fault.Recommend

  • Pakistani citizen

    BTW I forgot to ask, did the writer tried to take the kid to the doctor or did something to raise resources for him?Recommend

  • Reader

    We are with you sir. You are right, we must strive for a Pakistan where only the most educated and qualified people comprise the political class. Even Imran Khan cannot offer that, because even if he has dedicated and honest people, they are not all the “cream of the crop” of the country, which is your vision, and this country has a lot to offer in terms of highly qualified and educated people. I support you in this vision of yours for Pakistan, only then can this country rise above being in the Third World.Recommend

  • Nayla

    Well, did you help the boy?Recommend

  • Parvez

    I liked your intensity and the direction of your appeal. What bothers me is that your audience are the type who are comfortable under any regime, so for them its more like a fashion statement : ‘ Dharling we’re all voting for Imran this time around, so where are you’ll going this summer ? ‘………..this lot really does not matter.
    The millions who should matter are in the villages, in the ghettos and slums but the way the system operates is that they too don’t matter because its ‘ the man ‘ who controls their livelihood that matters and he is a beneficiary of the crooked system. If I am not mistaken 70% of the eligible voters fall under this category.
    It is because of this warped system that the role being played by the CEC and the superior judiciary is so vital. Recommend

  • Mariam

    I hope you helped the poor boy :( if not please tell us a way to help him. Recommend

  • san

    wow..what are were doing for the last 54 years?Recommend

  • Tasneem

    Must help boy .I dont now how can live in darty politics I support you gazag alla .Recommend

  • Sane

    May be YDA will do something about it…Recommend

  • Sterry

    Although I symapthise with the boy, the reality is that there is free care available in Punjab – even if the free care isn’t too great. Even the private hospitals will do ” Al Falay” work / charitable work too. Sometimes, people have to blamed for their own lack of initiative. I have seen often in parts of Pakistan, people won’t make the effort to get to the nearby clinic where things are free unless someone takes them there personally.Recommend

  • abc

    very well written. agree with the writer.Recommend

  • nazia

    Could you please send me the boy’s address or any contact detail so that we will help him out????Recommend

  • Mahwish Khan

    I would like to know the contact details of this boy…Recommend

  • Singh

    It is strange that whenever a story appear in news, everyone offer help to poor. Why can’t you look around yourself to find so many Imran around you?
    In fact it is society of blind who depend upon guide who can show misery around you.Recommend