Tuesday, 15 June 2010
King Edward Medical College, Lahore. Perhaps the pre-eminent medical institute in Asia pre-Partition
In an op ed written by Dr Syed Mansoor Hussain in Pakistan's Daily Times, Thank you Mr Jinnah, he argues that the partition of the Subcontinent opened up to the Muslims of India opportunities that they weren't getting before. He cites the low number of Muslim students who achieved distinction at King Edward Medical College.
As the scion of King Edward Medical College alumni, I feel compelled to disagree with Dr Hussain's citation of the college as a testimony to the creation of Pakistan -
"And if I looked on the walls in the hallway where all the medal winners over the years are listed, I would have a hard time finding a single Muslim name before 1947.''
The grandfather of friends, Dr M.A. Latif, I'm informed, graduated in 1917 with honors from K.E. Medical College. He was one of the two students who came from Indian minorities.
My granduncle and his wife, Dr Saifuddin Ahmed and Dr Fatima Sughra, appeared on the honours board pre-Partition, in the early 1940s. Saify Chacha apparently finished first in his final exam and had a Silver Medal in surgery (an award not handed out every year) and Sughra Chachi was apparently Best Graduate and a Silver or Gold in Pathology and in Anatomy.
Fast-forward to post-Partition, the 1970s, when my parents were students at KEMC. The school was rife with corruption. Favouritism resulted in extra marks for toadies as well as friends/family of examiners, professors and politicians, whose children, it was widely felt, were not admitted on merit. Only small chunks of the exams were objective, and those too were apparently tampered.
My father was one of less than probably 20 students who passed all four exams in their first sit (only 22 had passed the first exam), yet was placed 41st in his year of 250. The widespread impression was that the first 50 positions were and continue to be tampered, so what his real 'untampered' position would have been is anybody's guess. I've not heard of this happen at an Indian Institute of Technology.
By the time that my father graduated, his father had been long dead, and he wasn't finding suitable opportunities. My mother didn't use her father's position to gain favours. And so they emigrated from Pakistan to a land of more fairness and opportunity.
Pakistan failed my honest, hard-working and intelligent Muslim parents. Pre-partitioned India hadn't failed my conscientious, Muslim ancestors.
Ahmed Buksh, my great, great grandfather, became Aitchison's first Muslim teacher (it was then called Chiefs College). A picture hangs of him in the school. My great-grandfather Ziauddin Ahmed became the first Indian native Deputy Inspector-General of police in the British police force (for Sindh and Bombay). He was awarded the title Khan Bahadar and named a colonel. My great-grandfather Salahuddin Ahmed became the publisher and editor of the Urdu literary magazine Adb ki Duniya. He was awarded a knighthood, which he returned during the independence movement, a national holiday was named after him, and he was remembered annually on All India Radio.
Both Saify Chacha and Sughra Chachi - graduates of pre-1947 KEMC - had illustrious careers as medical practitioners in Pakistan, the UK, the USA and back in Pakistan again, and published important papers. In contrast, a number of my parents' post-Partition contemporaries who remained in Pakistan use antiquated techniques and prescribe medicines that are no longer recommended for prescription, not bothering to keep up with the latest developments in medical literature.
KEMC is a shadow of what it once was and what it ought to be. That it admits and honours below-par 'Muslims' is not a testimony that Pakistan should desire.
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