This article was originally posted as a facebook note by Sumaira Jajja and it is being reproduced by PTH.
By Sumaira Jajja
In Pakistan, the easiest way for the state to evade responsibility is to label the victims of terrorist attacks, accidents and natural disasters martyrs (shaheed) and dole out a compensation package based on the gravity of the situation (dependent of media backlash and public anger). The compensation for a dead can range from Rs100,000 to Rs10,00,000.
Those who survive attacks also get some compensation but no one ever bothers to check if the assistance package is enough to meet their medical needs and allow them to function properly.
Meet 29-year-old Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Constable Mushtaq Ahmed, supposedly ‘one lucky man to be alive’.
He braved a volley of 15 bullets in a terrorist attack on July 18, 2014 and he is still alive – a stark reminder of how we treat our heroes.
On the fateful day, Mushtaq along with his colleagues was on duty at Peshawar’s Sarhad University. Unidentified motorcyclists threw a hand grenade at their police mobile, followed by a heavy exchange of gun fire. Four policemen died in that attack. Mushtaq was the lone survivor. “All I remembers is pressing the trigger and the sound of gunfire,” he says.
He passed out after a bullet him in the head, a scar on his forehead remains. 14 other bullets were lodged in his body – neck, chest, arms and legs. Despite extensive bleeding and severe injuries, Mushtaq survived, partially paralysed neck down.
Doctors call his survival a miracle.
But ‘being alive’ is a relative term to him. Since the incident, the quality of his life has changed but his plight fails to make anyone in the KP Police Department sit up and take notice.
“They call me a hero but what is my worth?” Mushtaq questioned.
Married to a young woman, a father of three children and the sole child of his mother Begum Noor Khan, Mushtaq joined KP’s Special Police Officer (SPO) Unit in 2013 on a salary of Rs15,000 a month.
However, being a contract employee he is not entitled to medical benefits and accidental coverage as regular policemen are.
To meet medical expenses, Mushtaq sold his house for Rs700,000. After treating him for months, Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar told him that further treatment was not possible and he has to head to Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) as they have expertise to help him.
Mushtaq was given Rs100,000 by the KP government as compensation. However, his medical bill is running high. So far his treatment at AKUH is dependant on donations and charity.
According to one of his doctors, Mushtaq needs extensive reconstructive surgery. “The bones in his arms are badly crushed. We have to take skin grafts from his thighs and ‘recreate’ the arms again. It will be a long process which will require a series of operations. Rehabilitation will take time and lots of patience.”
One year is the least possible time before he can be fully functional and independent.
“Not even a single political party representative approached me after the incident. I sold my house as the Rs100,000 given to me by KP government was not enough. I now live in a rented house,” says Mushtaq, who is currently recovering in Karachi after his first surgery was performed last week at AKUH.
His medical bill was estimated to be around Rs12,00,000 plus. However, AKUH slashed the amount heavily under its Patient Welfare Programme.
At the first stage, a generous donor paid Rs300,000 for the surgery directly to the hospital. Another benefactor got him, his mother and an attendant one way plane tickets to Karachi.
However, Mushtaq still has a long way to go and requires at least 4 more surgeries and what remains to be seen is if any kind benefactor will help him with future surgeries (at least four operations spread over a period of eight months to one year).
During this time, he will need accommodation in Karachi as well as money to meet day to day expenses which his meager salary of Rs15,000, which the police department is giving him on humanitarian grounds, won’t be of much help.
His elderly mother has been accompanying him to all his hospital visits and is usually the sole care-giver for him on such trips.
For her, seeing her handsome son on a bed is the worst possible tragedy of her life. He was supposed to take care of her in old age, but here she is, taking care of him like a baby. She hopes one day Mushtaq will get up give her a hug.
Similar thoughts cross the minds of his young wife and children who are currently in Peshawar.
Mushtaq says he would give up everything to hold his infant son who was born a few months after the terror attack. He says when he joined the police force he never thought for a moment about a situation like this.
“I love my country and would willingly give my life for this country but now I am trapped in my own body. People call me a hero but no one has cared to check how this hero survives. I can’t send my children to school, can’t feed my family. Is this how heroes are treated?”
Hoping that he will get better soon, Mushtaq wants the government to step forward. Wary of ‘potential donors’ who promise him money and raise his hopes but never show up, he says he expects the KP government to own him.
Meanwhile, his biggest worry right now is the money for his next surgery and the mounting guest house bill in Karachi.
Rehan Ali Aamir Mughal Pakistan Defence Bismah Jehangir Meherunisa Soomro Ajmal Jami Sharmila Sahebah Faruqui
For anyone who wants to help Mushtaq, his details are as follows:
Mushtaq Ahmed Khan (M R No 273-0-20 – Aga Khan University Hospital)
For direct bank deposit/electronic transfer
Please make your donation in favour of: Account Title: Aga Khan Hospital & Medical College Foundation (Do quote Mushtaq’s M R No. on all drafts)
Bank Name: Soneri BankBank Address: AKU Branch, Stadium Road, Karachi 74800 Account Number: 01021228287Branch Code: 0024 IBAN Number: PK65SONE0002401021228287 Swift Code: SONEPKKAKAR