RANDOM THOUGHTS: Senior Citizens - BY: Dr. A.Q. Khan

Senior Citizens
Dr. A.Q. Khan


You must have heard it said that Pakistan has an untapped wealth of about 120 million youths. Unfortunately, most of them are uneducated, untrained and jobless and not making any contribution to the development of the country. This makes them vulnerable to recruitment by undesirable elements, brainwashing and terrorist activities. The fault lies with our system of education, an area sadly neglected by incompetent, inefficient and often dishonest bureaucrats and administrators ghost schools being a point in question.

In 2000 I had sent a proposal to Gen. Musharraf to start an educational-c**-vocational training program in FATA. Together with my former Member Finance, Mr. Muhammad Faheem (Secretary, Ministry of Finance) and Dr. Nazir Ahmad (DG Industrial Laiason), we had prepared a useful and pragmatic plan to educate and train the young generation in FATA. The plan was to teach them modern subjects together with technical training. This program would have greatly enhanced their chances of gainful employment and reduced the chances of their being recruited into terrorism-related activities. Unfortunately, nothing ever came of it, nor was there ever was any reaction to this constructive proposal.

Besides our human wealth in youth, we also have a wealth of well educated, experienced retired force of senior citizens. The number of senior citizens in the country is estimated at being 8.7 million, some of whom are organized within the Senior Citizens Foundation of Pakistan. The head office is in Islamabad and there are branches in Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and Wah. Of this organization I am currently the President, Mr. Akbar Hayat Gondapur is the Vice President, Mr. H.M. Chohan is the Secretary, Mr. Hafeezuddin is the Secretary Information and Mr. F.I. Qureshi is the Secretary Finance. All these gentlemen have been Federal Secretaries with decades of invaluable experience behind them. Members of the organization include professors, scientists, doctors, economists, politicians, administrators, diplomats, water experts, engineers, etc. It is most unfortunate that this wealth of available knowledge has never been tapped by any of our rulers, Pakistan Engineering Council, Pakistan Academy of Sciences, etc. for advice and input for any important national projects or the solving of local problems. In developed countries, Think Tanks consisting of senior citizens are set up and governments regularly benefit from them. Funds are provided to these Think Tanks and requests for advice on policy matters and/or specific projects/problems are forwarded to them.

Senior Citizens Day is celebrated all over the world on 1st October every year. Due to Moharram, we celebrated it on 7th October this year. Our celebration and Annual Meeting took place in the auditorium of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences where, like every year, two senior citizens were honoured with the Distinguished Senior Citizen of Pakistan award. This year the winners were Dr. Naeem Ghani and Mr. Akbar Hayat Gandapur. I quote below part of their citations.

Dr. Naeem Ghani is an eminent medical specialist. A graduate from King Edward Medical College, Lahore, Nishtar Medical College, Multan and Kings College, London, he has visited more than thirty countries in connection with his profession. Apart from working in Pakistan, he had a long distinguished career in Saudi Arabia where he had the unique honour of being the Visiting Honorary Companion to King Suleman Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud. Dr. Ghani has concentrated on welfare work in Pakistan since 1992. He has established numerous free medical clinics in Rawalpindi and Islamabad as well as conventional and non-conventional educational institutions. He is the Chairman of the Sultana Foundation - a non-profit organization working in the fields of education and healthcare and Nazria Pakistan Council committed to the realization of Promise of Pakistan. He is also the author of numerous publications.

Mr. Akbar Hayat Gandapur is an administrator with three Masters Degrees to his name Public Administration (Punjab Univerity), Economics (KPK) and Defence and Strategic Studies (QAU). During his service he acquired training in Rural Development Administration, Project Evaulation and Review Techniques and Investment Analysis and Decision Making. He speaks English, Urdu, Pushto, Punjabi and Saraiki. During the course of his work he has been able to travel to many countries and interacted with various other cultures, which has greatly influenced his approach to life and society. As Vice President of the Senior Citizens Foundation of Pakistan, he contributed his time and experience generously and with great devotion to the cause of the welfare of senior citizens.

Some of the problems faced by senior citizens needing urgent remedial action by the government, are: 1) The constantly rising prices of medicines which the government have been unable to control. The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan recently even allowed an increase in price of 30%. For senior citizens, medicines are part and parcel of life with increased prices causing a heavy burden on them. The government should take firm measures to regulate the prices of medicines. 2) The Senior Citizens Bill. The draft of this bill was finalized by the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development and the National Council for Social Welfare. It has been languishing with the government for many years. It should be presented to Parliament without further delay. Only Punjab lags behind as legislation has already been passed in KPK, Sindh and Balochistan. 3) The age at which pensioners qualify for 25% increase in pension. This is currently applicable to those of 85 and over. This age limit makes the number of beneficiaries negligible and it would have made a greater impact and appreciation if it had been made applicable to those of 75 years of age and older. This would make life a lot easier for many old people.

It is hoped that the government of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will take urgent action to solve these problems.

P.S. It is hoped that Nawaz Sharif will soon stop his cronies and his daughter from issuing statements of useless rhetoric every day, as this will do nothing more than deteriorate his already precarious position.

Posted on Oct 17, 17 | 12:37 am