| Noor plays with her mother in a Bangalore hospital. (Reuters)
Islamabad, July 25: Dr Syed Fazal-e-Hadi has no doubt that Pakistan has one of the best cardiac institutes in the world. But he feels that it is all right to send Pakistani children across the border for treatment as long as it helps improve bilateral relations.
The executive director of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences said the country’s doctors perform the most difficult heart operations and that the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology, Rawalpindi, ranks among the best in the world.
Children from Pakistan are streaming into India for treatment “because of the publicity Indians got just recently by successfully operating on a Pakistani girl child”, Dr Hadi said.
Thirteen-year-old Azizurrehman today got a visa to travel to India for an open-heart surgery, becoming the third, after two-and-a-half-year-old Noor Fatima and eight-year-old Junaid Khalid, to head across the border for treatment since road links were restored.
His family, which belongs to Zhob in Baluchistan, had been waiting for the travel permission and for the Lahore-New Delhi bus service to resume. Azizurrehman’s father, Daulat Khan, also got a visa to accompany him. Junaid and Azizurrehman are likely to be operated on by the doctor who treated Noor, the child Dr Hadi refers to.
Dr Hadi, whose institute treated 143,827 children last year, said: “It will be an incorrect assessment of the situation if one believes that we in Pakistan do not have the latest facilities for specialised treatment.” Pakistan can also provide excellent medical treatment in many areas to Indians, if need be, he added.
Indian facilities and doctors seem to enjoy a psychological advantage over those in Pakistan, he said, explaining the movement of patients across the border.
Delhi had yesterday offered to fund the travel, stay and treatment of seriously ill Pakistani children. It has also promised to ease travel restrictions for them.
Noor, who arrived on the first Lahore-Delhi bus and is now recovering after surgery in a Bangalore hospital, spurred the government to open its heart to more Pakistani children.
A senior official at the high commission here said the travel relaxation was a goodwill gesture and its modalities were being worked out.
“We don’t know who will benefit from the offer and for how long, whether it is on a yearly basis or just a one-off move,” he said. Coincidentally, the same officer had signed the visa for Noor Fatima on July 9.
Over 100 children from Pakistan have undergone such surgery and treatment at Indian facilities in the past three years.
High commission officials said they are still issuing only 30-35 visas a day, compared to at least 10 times the number before January 2002.