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Philanthropy — a tapestry of compassion and hope

Philanthropy — a tapestry of compassion and hope

Interview with Dr. Malik Ahmed Saeed— ( Lt Col Retd)

PAGE: Tell me something about yourself, please:

Dr Malik Ahmed Saeed: I am Iqbalian and Ravian an alumni of prestigious Government College, Lahore, while done my MBBS from King Edward Medical College Lahore.

Served in the Army Medical Corps for 21 years. After serving at different installations and hospitals in Army including Siachen and 4 years in Northern Areas (managing Military Hospitals), also being seconded to PAF and Pakistan Navy (including Ships, Submarine and Naval Aviation). In 1993, I performed medical duties as part of Haj Medical Mission to KSA. Moreover, in 1994, I was seconded to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as SMO Air Academy Riyadh for three and a half years, Aviation Medicine (Flight Surgeon) being my specialty.

Took early retirement in 2004, as Lt Col, after which I continued my services in the field of medicine, in private Sector.

My 13 years work in Charity Hospitals includes:

• Administrator Karwan-e-Hayat Psychiatric Hospital Keamari in 2004, in which I renovated the building and made it functional as a 100 bedded Hospital. Providing services to the mentally compromised patients.

• Chief Medical Officer K-Electric for five years till 2016.

• Medical Superintendent Ziauddin University Hospital Keamari (four years). Running the charity hospital of Ziauddin chain of hospitals.

• Administrative Superintendent LRBT Korangi Hospital – presently serving in LRBT (Layton Rahmatullah Benevolent Trust) for more than seven years. In LRBT’s 37 years of operations, we have saved the sight of over 54 million patients and performed more than 5.2 million surgeries through its 19 hospitals and 60 clinics. 54 millionth patient being Ms Mehwish, who had corneal transplant done. All treatment is totally free for poor patients.

Vision: LRBT is committed to creating a better Pakistan by preventing the suffering caused by blindness and other ailments. To this end it will provide state-of-art comprehensive free eye-care for the poor across Pakistan, in keeping with its tradition of excellence, efficiency and compassion for all.

Mission: No man, woman or child should go blind just because they cannot afford the treatment. Working for LRBT, in provision of this service has given me immense satisfaction, as a light of hope for people, needing my support. May Allah SWT accept my little contribution, Ameen.

PAGE: Could you give your perspective on the charity work in Pakistan?

Dr Malik Ahmed Saeed: As they say, charity begins at home, and for us home is Pakistan. The charity work carried out in Pakistan is admirable and inspirational. It’s a testament to the kindness and generosity of the Pakistani people. Charity work in Pakistan goes beyond providing basic necessities; it instills hope and dignity in those in need. What’s truly remarkable is how it unites diverse communities, reflecting the empathetic spirit of the country. Despite challenges, Pakistanis continue to support one another and contribute to charitable causes, both locally and internationally.

A study conducted by Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy shows that Pakistanis give around Rs240 billion (more than $2 billion) annually to charity. The report indicates that about 98 per cent of people in the country give in one form or another if not —with cash, then with in-kind donations or by volunteering for needy causes. I find it heartening to see how charity work has the power to transform lives and uplift communities. It’s a powerful force for creating a brighter and more inclusive future. This comes from my working experience of more than 13 years, in charity hospitals, especially in administrative capacity. It covers people from all spheres of life, may it be rich or not so rich, business men and women, journalists, renowned chef, TV & film artists, shopkeepers even children from schools. I remain personally committed to supporting and promoting these efforts with LRBT, knowing that even small acts of kindness can make a significant impact.

PAGE: What is your standpoint on the donations made by philanthropists?

Dr Malik Ahmed Saeed: “Donations made with the right intentions have the power to change the world”.

I hold a generally positive view of philanthropic donations keeping in mind the above quote, recognising their critical role in addressing pressing social, economic and environmental issues. These contributions are particularly impactful in countries like Pakistan, where they fill funding gaps for matters such as poverty, education, healthcare, and environmental conservation. The flexibility of philanthropists to support innovative solutions is invaluable, especially in regions facing unique challenges. However, it is essential to ensure transparency, accountability, and a balance of power.

While philanthropy can address immediate needs and promote innovative approaches, it should be viewed as complementary to, rather than a substitute for, the systemic changes required to tackle deep-seated issues.

In Pakistan and globally, philanthropy plays a crucial role in supporting systemic reform efforts aimed at addressing inequality and creating a positive impact.

In Pakistan, many organisations are working on the donation system which helps so many people namely LRBT. 24.3% of population is living below the national poverty line whereas 1.3% of the employed population earns less than $2 a day. Out of this 60% goes towards putting food on the table. This makes it almost impossible for them to get any kind of treatment in case of an ailment. This is where LRBT takes the reign and helps out those in need. To sum it up, I can only say that philanthropists, not only from Pakistan, but also from UAE, UK, USA & Canada are one of the great contributors, to the worthy cause of supporting LRBT.

PAGE: What is your take on the level of poverty in Pakistan?

Dr Malik Ahmed Saeed: Poverty is on the increase in accordance to exponential population boom. When I joined LRBT Korangi Hospital Karachi, seven years back, the average OPD was of 1000 patients, now we have experienced patients crossing the 1600/day mark. Thanks to the generous donations, that LRBT is managing to provide treatment to the increasing number of needy patients, absolutely free of cost. My perspective on the level of poverty in Pakistan is informed by the available facts and data, and it underscores the significant challenges the country faces in this regard. Pakistan, a country with a population of over 240 million people, has been grappling with poverty for many years. According to the Pakistan Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), a significant portion of the population lives below the poverty line. As of my last knowledge update in January 2022, approximately 39% of Pakistan’s population was living in multidimensional poverty, meaning they faced deprivations in various areas such as education, healthcare, and living standards. Furthermore, the World Bank reported that nearly 24.3% of Pakistan’s population was living below the national poverty line, which equates to a daily income of around $1.90. The factors contributing to poverty in Pakistan are multifaceted and include economic disparities, limited access to quality education and healthcare, inadequate infrastructure, and a high population growth rate. The country faces challenges such as political instability, security concerns, and issues related to governance, which can hinder poverty alleviation efforts. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the poverty situation, leading to income loss and disruptions in various sectors.

Efforts to combat poverty in Pakistan have been ongoing, with the government and various non-governmental organizations implementing initiatives and social safety nets. However, addressing poverty comprehensively requires sustained economic growth, investments in human capital, job creation, and improvements in the overall socio-economic landscape. The situation might have evolved since, so I recommend consulting the most recent data and reports for the latest insights on the level of poverty in Pakistan.

PAGE: How would you comment on the participation by the youth in charity work?

Dr Malik Ahmed Saeed: The engagement of youth in charity work in Pakistan is increasingly noteworthy. The tech-savvy youth leverage digital platforms and social media to fundraise, recruit volunteers, and raise awareness for various social causes. They’re involved in a wide range of initiatives, addressing issues like education, healthcare, poverty, and disaster relief. This extends to rural areas as well, with young volunteers working closely with local communities. The government has recognised the value of youth involvement in charitable activities and is supporting their initiatives through various empowerment programs. While challenges exist, such as limited resources, the enthusiasm and commitment of Pakistani youth are driving positive change in the country’s social and humanitarian landscape.

I can say from the bottom of my heart, that the youth of Pakistan is very motivated, in charity work. As I had mentioned that even school children come to our hospital, bringing gifts for patients especially for children on Eid. Some approach us for volunteer work. If I may say so the younger strata of Pakistani population, will be involved in more philanthropic work, in the days, to come.

I, for see a great nation in the making. May Allah SWT give Pakistanis strength and wisdom to do good for the country as a whole and more so for the under privileged. Ameen

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