One would think that the new government would be more prudent
and discerning than previous governments, which were in the habit of
dismantling everything that their predecessors had done. By undoing some
of the projects initiated during Pervez Musharraf's rule, the current
government is about to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.
the method by which Pervez Musharraf engineered his ascent
to power was and remains illegal, some of the schemes that
he started during his rule
were innovative. It would be a mistake to kill those projects
just because they were started during his rule. One needs
to take a closer look at
some of these schemes and decide them on merit. One is
the National Commission of Human Development (NCHD) and the
other is the National Academy of
Performing Arts (NAPA).
The NCHD was established in 2002
as a federal statutory body 'for the express purpose of
starting a fast track initiative to improve
social sector at the grass roots'. In seven years, it opened
thousands of adult literacy
centres across the country where 85 per cent of the beneficiaries
are women. It also succeeded in opening a large number
of feeder schools
in remote areas of the country. In the health sector,
the NCHD trained several hundred thousand women as primary
workers. These women
have had a palpable impact in reducing mortality from
As if that were not enough the commission
has also established welfare centres in the entire district
headquarter hospitals of the country
where efforts are made to provide free medicines, blood
donations and transportation
for the local people. Unlike other government schemes,
the bulk of NCHD manpower comes from 300,000 volunteers.
In addition to this, around 85,000
people were employed by the commission.
There has been
a lot said about the man behind the NCHD. Dr Nasim Ashraf
has been derisively called Mr Musharraf's crony for whom
the commission was created. The truth is quite the opposite.
A 1973 graduate of Khyber Medical
College, Dr Ashraf has had a successful career as a nephrologist
in the US. While president of the Association of
Pakistani Physicians of North
America (APPNA) in 1987, he conceived and implemented
ambitious health and literary scheme for Pakistan.
Called APPNA Sehat, the scheme was
meant to improve the health in rural villages in
Pakistan through adult literacy and public health. Funded completely
by the association's members,
the scheme was hailed by many international organisations
as a unique and innovative approach to improve lives
of ordinary people. At its height
a decade ago APPNA Sehat covered 300,000 people in
rural areas of Pakistan. Later he co-created Human
Foundation (HDF) of North America.
The HDF is now being successfully managed by its
co-founder Dr Khalid Riaz of Chicago.
The other organisation on
the chopping block is the NAPA located at Karachi.
Founded in 2004, NAPA is a unique institution where
formal education in performing arts is offered
that leads to a bachelor's degree. Instead
of being a repository of performing arts like any
cultural museum, the academy is a commendable initiative
to teach and propagate and thus preserve
age-old artistic traditions.
Zia Mohiyudin does
not need any introduction. A cultured man of English, Urdu
and Persian letters he came out of his well-earned
retirement as an internationally-acclaimed actor
and agreed to establish
the academy. Who else, pray tell, could
synthesize our great native artistic traditions
with Persian and English and pass on the precious legacy
to our younger generation?
History will give the
final verdict of Mr Musharrf's rule and the misrule. But
among many mistakes he committed he also gave
the country some solid
institutions. It is up to the new government
to separate the good from the bad and preserve those institutions
that have done commendable work
and hold great potential for the country. The
and NAPA are two such institutions.
The writer is professor emeritus
professor of thoracic and cardiovascular
surgery at the
of Toledo. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org