An estimated 40٪ of all the diseases reported in Pakistan are linked to kidney, bladder and urinary tract, and liver malfunction. Before the inception of the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI) and Research Center, affluent patients used to travel to India and China for liver and kidney transplant while the poor had no option but to succumb to the pain and agony.
PKLI gave hope to the rich and poor patients alike, treating them free of cost, but the prestigious institute has now become dysfunctional due to its politicization by the incumbent regime.
The state-of-the-art institution, established in Lahore Defence Housing Authority (DHA), was conceived by Prof Dr Saeed Akhtar, a world renowned urologist. He envisioned it as a facility where treatment for liver and kidney patients could take place under one roof. To make this venture successful, Prof. Akhtar convinced over 100 Pakistani doctors and specialists in various disciplines of medicine, who were practicing abroad and earning millions of dollars a year, to come to Pakistan and join the PKLI on meagre salaries.
Prof. Akhtar approached former Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Shehbaz Sharif for a piece of land for this project in 2014. Mr. Shehbaz Sharif not only provided 60 acres of land in Lahore but also promised financial assistance for three years so that liver and kidney transplant facilities could be made available in Pakistan at the earliest. The institute was expected to generate about 75 per cent of its own funding to cover all operational costs through donations like zakat after the end of the government’s funding.
The institute was established under the Kidney and Liver Institute and Research Center Act 2014 as a non-profit institute and Prof. Saeed was appointed as its president and the chief executive officer (CEO). PKLI was not intended only for the residents of Punjab but for every citizen of Pakistan, which is in line with Mian Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif’s vision to provide quality and modern healthcare to all citizens of the country.
Soon after its inception, PKLI was ranked among the top medical institutions providing free treatment of liver and kidney diseases or disorders. From fire alarm systems, medical equipment, beds for patients, nurse alarms, to the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, one could be forgiven to think that they were in a hospital in any developed country. The management structure was made transparent and despite the government initially setting up the institute, it would have been run by an independent Board of Governors who would take decisions without political interference.
The PKLI became hope for millions of kidney and liver patients but unfortunately the political victimization of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) has brought this state-of-the-art institution on the brink of collapse. Since March 2019 to Sept 2020, only seven liver transplants could take place at the PKLI while the institute performed only 87 kidney transplants in the last two years. The project is facing aggravated decrease in funding since incumbent regime came into power. A revolutionary project has been reduced to just another government hospital. From the day, this project was initiated by the PML-N government, powerful lobbies carried out a smear attack against the government, the hospital, and even the doctors who had come from overseas to provide relief to the masses.
People like Prof. Akhtar, who left a lucrative career in the US, and Dr. Amer Yar Khan, who also worked in the US for 18 years before returning to Pakistan, were vilified in public and accused of corruption, along with the management of the PKLI and others associated with this project. Even an ex-CJP consistently grilled Prof Akhtar without any reason. The PKLI board was charged with malafide intentions and Prof Akhtar was removed as the head of the PKLI in Sept 2018. An ad hoc committee was formed to run the affairs of the institute, compelling Prof Akhtar to leave the country in November 2018.
According to the original scheme, the PKLI was to be established on 60 acres of land in the Lahore Knowledge Park with a capacity of 800 beds (extendable to 1,500 beds), a 100-bed emergency center, 100-bed ICU, 100-bed outpatient dialysis facility, 500-bed in-patient facility and 20 operating rooms.
From the outset, all legal formalities were completed and all construction contracts were done strictly in accordance with the law. In fact, the construction bid process was done thrice in order to get the most competitive cost, i.e. 10.6 billion rupees, even though this resulted in a delay of one year.
The Punjab government under Mian Shehbaz Sharif made every effort to reduce the cost of this mega project and eventually succeeded. No other project comes anywhere close to the cost effective pricing done for PKLI. Later, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court overturned the verdict of its former chief justice, vindicating Shehbaz Sharif’s stance that there was no corruption in the PKLI project.
Instead of showing maturity by owning the PML-N project and carrying it forward, the PTI government did everything conceivable to ensure that the institute did not work so that no credit could be given to Shehbaz Sharif. Once the SC three-member bench set aside the previous order, the PTI government decided to bring changes in the PKLI Act to ensure that professional doctors like Dr. Amer Yar Khan were pushed out. Inevitably, Dr. Khan resigned and left the country.
The current PTI government, in its quest to victimize the PML-N, has systematically gutted the institute established for the welfare of Pakistanis. However, the PKLI still stands tall amongst Shehbaz Sharif’s achievements and his love for the citizens of Pakistan & Punjab in particular. The PTI government cannot boast of a single achievement like the PKLI. The institute awaits the return of Shehbaz Sharif to the helm of affairs so that he can take it to the heights it truly deserves. Until then, hundreds of thousands of patients will suffer due to the negative politics of the incumbent fascist regime.
truly deserves. Until then, hundreds of thousands of patients will suffer due to the negative politics of the incumbent fascist regime.