Does the Pakistani media love to hate the US?

Published: February 25, 2014
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Those who carried out negative reporting about Shahzaib's issue had no idea about the humanitarian approach of the US.

Last week our media showed a shocking side of our ‘friend country’, claiming that the US authorities were going to shift a comatose patient, Muhammad Shahzaib Bajwa, from a US hospital to Pakistan without ensuring that his condition was stable enough.

To me this seems like yet another case of ‘yellow journalism’ because the fact of the matter is that Shahzaib Bajwa, who had been spending a semester in an exchange program at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, has been comatose in a Minnesota hospital since his accident last November.

According to Shahzaib’s elder brother, the Essentia Health-St Mary’s Medical Centre has already provided $350,000 for his treatment and they needed an additional $100,000 for his treatment, for which he launched a fund-raising campaign and $20,000 has been collected. The fact is that the US not only raised $350,000 for Shahzaib but also gave him the required care. In addition, the US state department extended his visa to accommodate his treatment in collaboration with Pakistan’s foreign office.

It is disturbing that those who spread rumours and carry out negative reporting about this issue have no idea about the humanitarian approach of the US. When I was watching this news on TV, I could simply not accept the fact that the US could do something as inhumane as sending a comatose patient back to his own country without stabilising him.

Watching the media coverage brought back memories of an incident that took place in the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS). As you know, PIMS is one of the largest tertiary care hospitals in Islamabad and caters to the needs of thousands of patients daily. Like every tertiary care hospital, there are issues in PIMS and currently the biggest issue is the non-functional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

This system was installed in 1984-85 with a capacity of 1,750 tons and it has outlived its useful life. In 2012, the system was functioning at 20% of its capacity. However, last year the HVAC system completely broke down and is not capable of providing air-conditioning or cooling in any area of the hospital anymore. The boilers, cooling towers and chillers have become non-functional and the circulation system has become completely ineffective.

It is pertinent to mention that around 5,000 patients, along with hundreds of their attendants, visit the Out Patient Department (OPD) and emergency department at PIMS every day. And I am sure you remember that the summer season last year was one of the hottest we have had. Due to overcrowding in the OPD, patients and their attendants were very uncomfortable and had to suffer extreme suffocation. The situation for doctors, nurses and other supporting staff, who were surrounded by these crowds, was worse. In addition, the wards have more than 600 beds and patients admitted in them were also subject to extreme heat and suffocation. In fact, some patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and wards became critical due to the oppressive heat and lack of ventilation.

It was the morning of June 12, 2013 when the then administrator, Professor Iqbal Memon, told me about the severity of the situation in the ICU where the air-conditioning units were not functioning. I forwarded the complaint to a friend of mine in the US embassy. They sent their engineering team within 24 hours to help us but by then our engineering team had managed to stabilise the situation. They submitted their report to the US ambassador Richard Olson and he promised his support to PIMS in the case of any acute emergency.

My point is that they didn’t belong to this country and yet, they were concerned about the well-being of Pakistani citizens and they did their best to help the people of Pakistan.

Currently, they are working on a plan to install a new HVAC system in PIMS for which negotiations are underway and I am quite hopeful that we will see some positive changes before the coming summer season.

I don’t understand why our media feels the need to criticise the US and often quite unnecessarily.  Shahzaib’s issue involved technicalities and it had to be resolved according to the rules and regulations of both countries. Once they sorted through the legalities and technicalities, the issue was resolved.

Such efforts show that they feel our pain and yet, there is a specific, conspiracy-theory driven, negative mind set in our country that not only negates their cooperation and support but also condemns it.

In a country like ours, where our infrastructure is too weak and undeveloped to support our own needs, US aid and cooperation is not only welcome; it is much needed.

With numerous projects running in Pakistan by US funding, we too need to extend a goodwill gesture towards the US.

Then, why does our media love to hate the US?

Saifur.Rehman

Saif RK

An advocate for Pakistan and US relationship, he has a keen interest in humanitarian assistance programs and tweets as @SaifRK (twitter.com/SaifRK)

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