It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview you, Sir. Let’s start by diving right into the beginning of your journey. Please tell us a bit about your early family life?
My father passed away when I was only 7 years old, which defined a lot of my early life. One memory of him that I can recall is that I went to Rawalpindi to meet Noor-uI-Ameen, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Then, we went to Ayubia National Park. My father was in jail for more than a year, I remember visiting him along with my mother. My mother was a graduate of Lahore College for Women University. She opened a school after the completion of her education. She was passionate about serving the nation and later, she became MPA in 1985. She has been a driving force and a role model for all of us.
Please enlighten us on your political career?
My shaheed father was a political activist and was assassinated during Bhutto’s regime. I entered into politics in 1979 by joining Islami Jamiat Talba. And just after 2 years I joined MSF. My elder brother and I both were arrested many times, as we were vocal for the student’s rights. My parliamentary carrier started in 2OO8 when I got elected as member of the Punjab Assembly and became special assistant to the chief minister Punjab on healthcare. From 2013 to 2016 I served as special assistant to the chief minister for the same department. Later I became minister for specialized healthcare till the end of the term.
Do you think that the current government is handling dengue effectively?
The current government has definitely failed miserably in a number of things. But when it comes to dengue, COVID and other ailments, it’s safe to say that existing healthcare infrastructure has zero planning and action. It’s the state’s responsibility to provide citizens with adequate protections and safety measures. No dengue awareness drive has been held in past 3 years. In fact, we are witnessing the tsunami of misreporting and manipulation of figures. People still remember the way Mr. Shehbaz Sharif led the anti-dengue campaign and his planning was acknowledged by the world best Sri Lankan experts.
Your work as minister for specialized healthcare in Punjab was recognizably remarkable. Please tell us about your tenure. How would you compare that to the current incompetence of the PTI government in the healthcare sector?
I became minister for specialized health during the dengue outbreak. Under the leadership of Shehbaz Sharif, the Punjab government successfully eradicated dengue and polio from Punjab, especially in Lahore. We started bone marrow transplant and congenital heart diseases treatment facilities first time in Punjab. We constructed and activated Mayo hospital surgical tower. Even the health card was the project of PMLN. The PTI government simply changed the name of the card and printed their party flag and relaunched the same initiative. The PTI government is clearly displaying a lack of management of healthcare infrastructure. For instance, Pakistan is one of the only two polio-endemic countries in the world. The PTI government not only put PML-N’s performance on the endemic to rest, but is also incapable of handling the rise in cases in the country. The PTI government did not add a single bed to the hospitals of Punjab. Around 3,000 beds were added during our tenure, 600 beds were added in the Children’s Hospital Lahore alone. THQs and BHQs were also upgraded. Infection control and modular theaters were also established in the hospitals. Another flagship project of Shehbaz Sharif is the Tayyip Erdogan Hospital. It is situated in Muzaffargarh. During the 2010 floods, Shehbaz Sharif himself remained on the ground to closely monitor the situation and hear the grievances of the people.
He made sure that dengue was handled on a war footing. The current government did not even complete any of the Shehbaz era’s teaching hospital extension projects. From 2018 to date, there has been no addition of a single bed in any of the teaching hospitals of Punjab. The current government has not even begun working on their own initiated projects; many of their projects or PC-1 are unapproved. I went to Spain with Dr. Saeed Akhtar, the pioneer of PKLI. The purpose was to bring the world’s biggest NGO which was then working on lungs and liver transplant, to invest in Pakistan. A successful urologist who left a splendid career in the US to serve his people, was humiliated to the extent that he packed his bag and left Pakistan forever.
How many medical colleges has the current government established since 2O18?
The current government has initiated not a single medical college. PML-N established 5 Medical colleges and made huge strides in the health sector.
Why, in your view, is the current healthcare ministry not delivering?
Health Minister Yasmin Rashid is overburdened due to the responsibility of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. She is also suffering from cancer, and my sincerest prayers go out to her. The sector is almost dormant when it comes to active handling.
How would you comment on media speculations regarding two separately operational groups within the party?
There are no groups within the party. I think the difference of opinion within the party is the beauty of democracy. We all are one and united in the leadership of our Quaid Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif sahib is very obedient to his brother. From top leadership to the workers, every member of the party believes In “Vote Ko lzzat Do” and civil supremacy.
How was your experience during imprisonment?
The experience of imprisonment taught us a lot. No form of unfair and one-sided accountability can shake our determination to restore democracy in its true spirit we were especially motivated by seeing the courageous Hamza Shehbaz, whom Allah SWT blessed with a daughter after many years. The behavior of PTI regime was particularly inhumane with him. I remember how once my own daughter insisted me to visit the zoo, but I had been arrested and was unable to take her there.
How was your working experience with Mian Shehbaz Sharif?
I have been working with Mian Shehbaz Sharif for more than 30 years and have observed that he is extraordinarily hardworking as a leader. He used to work 16-18 hours often. He holds an uncompromising personality when it comes to performance and perfection. On his trips abroad, he would tirelessly work from one meeting or engagement to another. He is, by all definitions, the most committed chief minister in the history of Pakistan.
What are your hobbies in your personal life?
I have a very peaceful life at home. I prefer to spend my free time with my family. My eldest son is studying law from London. The second one is becoming a “Hafiz-e-Quran”. The youngest daughter and son are twins. I enjoy exercising, book reading and listening music. Swimming is one of my favorite hobbies. I am also a foodie to the core.
What would be your advice to the youth?
I would simply quote great Quaid-E-Azam here, “my young friends, I look forward to you as the real makers of Pakistan, do not be exploited and do not be misled. Create amongst yourselves complete unity and solidarity. Set an example of what youth can do. Your main occupation should be in fairness to yourself, to your parents, in fairness to the State, to devote your attention to your studies. If you fritter away your energies now, you will always regret. Pakistan is proud of its youth, particularly the students, who are nation builders of tomorrow. They must fully equip themselves by discipline, education, and training for the arduous task lying ahead of them.”