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The sound of Silence

A short story by Hamdan Ali Khan, 1st Year MBBS

The old man sat on the beach, barefooted and alone. Silence reigned everywhere except the occasional thrashing of waves which disturbed the acoustic equilibrium. Night it was, the sky filled with a million lanterns, the birds dozing off quietly and the sea like an old pirate sang a silent shanty. Oh! He missed his youth, when he could swim to the Black Rock without drowning, when he could shout at the vast ocean, his resonant voice fading upon the edges of horizon. But all good things come to an end, the voice that once resonated; now a husky whisper. The man who was the fastest swimmer; now an ancient remainder of time and its echoes. The doctors said he had terminal cancer that he would die in a week. He didn’t fear death, he had no family, nothing to lose except maybe the sight when someone would break his 50 years old record. The silence of the calm sea nurtured in him a desire to swim to the Black Rock once again, one last time. He …

INTERVIEW: Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Asad Aslam Khan

*Below is an interview given by Vice Chancellor to Kemcol team in May 2011, scheduled to appear in Kemcol 2011 which will be released in a couple of weeks.

Vice Chancellor King Edward Medical University
Eds: Sir please tell us something about your education and family background?
I did my matriculation from Govt. Faisal Model School, from Govt. College and then joined
KE medical college in 1979. I graduated from here in 1985. My father was a doctor and graduate
of KEMC as well. I have two brothers and two sisters. My parents belong to India and whole
family migrated to Pakistan in the wake of partition in 1947.
I have one wife *laughter* and three children. Elder daughter is doing Bachelors in Psychology
from Canada and aspires to be a clinical psychologist. Then I have two sons, one is in A levels
and the other in O levels. Both are in Beacon house School System.

Eds: What is your favorite memory of college life?
Every day spent at KE was a memorable day because KE gives you a sense of respect for the
teachers. The moment you enter the gates of KE you feel a sense of discipline. My father was
from this institution too, so those were the memorable days.

Eds: What or who inspired you to become a doctor and then choose ophthalmology as your specialty?
I told you my father was a doctor and graduate of KE, so it was my ambition to become a doctor.
Why I joined ophthalmology was because of my mentor, my professor of Ophthalmology.
When I was in final year (ophthalmology used to be in final year in our days) we were attending
the ward. I presented the case and he appreciated the way I did. That was perhaps the turning
point in my life and I joined ophthalmology.

Eds: How do you like being the Vice Chancellor? What are the pros and cons? How is it different from being a teacher?
I still cannot believe it *laughter*. I never thought of being the VC when I was a student of KE.
But at the same time I never thought of leaving this institution. I had so many opportunities when I was offered higher posts and pays. I was promoted to associate professor and asked to go to PGMI but I refused and waited until seat was vacant at KE for promotion. I could have become associate professor 6 months earlier but I refused. When Governor Punjab opened Sialkot Medical College, he wanted to send me there. I made the feasibility report, visited the area where the college was to be located, I allocated various rooms for different departments. Then I got the impression that health department wanted me to go to Sialkot as the Principal, so I disappeared. I did not go to health department for a few months *laughter*. Then I was offered a post 8 years back as a consultant in Saudi Arabia at a salary of 4 lac rupees whereas my original salary at that time was Rs. 22,000, yet I preferred to stay at KE. Provincial health minister offered me the post of Secretary Health Department, but I refused. These are few examples that show how much KE is important to me. I refused higher status and salary to remain at KE. I still am teaching apart from being the VC. There is no change in my lecture schedule, I do my surgeries and see my patients in evening.
It is a challenge being a VC. At the end of every day I check myself mentally whether I have done anything for KE. Because all the days, months, years I am here, I do not wish to waste them. 

Eds: What is your vision for this institution, and how do you plan to reach that? What changes have you made since becoming the Vice Chancellor?
King Edward has a history of academic excellence and traditions. Students here respect their
teachers and I wish that it should be maintained. My vision is that KEMU be at number 1 in the
university ranking, or if not one then at least in the ten leading universities of the world.
The first change I made upon becoming the VC was to make a calendar of examination that was
not there. The UG and PG students did not know when the classes will begin, when will be the
exam. Similarly PG students did not know when they were required to submit research synopsis, thesis. So we have developed a calendar so that each student knows.
Second change was to structure a training program for post graduate students. We have 4 to 5
year programs and now each PG student knows what he is supposed to do in the third month of first year, second month of second year or eighth month of third year etc. Everything is in blackand white so there is no confusion.
Another change is the consolidation and transparency of PhD programs. Entry is by admission
test only for professor, AP, SR alike. Only 14 top merits are given admission. Then there is the
module system for intermediate evaluation, and is very transparent. Fourth change is that I havemade clear and ensured that no paper is taken out of the secrecy branch of Exam Department ,whether UG or PG. All the papers were checked by the examiners in the secrecy branch with fictitious roll numbers this year.
This building was established almost 151 years ago. It does not have the capacity to
accommodate other departments. One project for KEMU by HEC was approved but no funds
were released. The project is worth 32 crore and we are meeting the expenses from university
funds. I believe in starting the project and automatically the funds get generated. I do not believe that first money be collected and then project started, because by the time money is collected,
prices have escalated. So with this thought I donated 1 crore 50 lac rupees from the university
fund for the new project in Jillani's place. Every one of us should do something for KE. To
involve each and every kemcolian, we are making the donors' wall. Each graduate of KEMU can have one brick in his name by paying Rs.50,000 . I bought two bricks, one in the name of my father and other for me. In two to three days we have collected about 6 lacs. This all is in
accordance with the Government's slogan of self-reliance. Our alumni in USA, Middle East,
and Far East wish to do something for KE too; they will pay money and have their name on wall.
I hope to generate 20 million rupees through this which will be spent on the new building, or on
the extension of basic sciences departments- anatomy, physiology, biochemistry,
pharmacology, pathology. Money has already been allocated for the renovation of anatomy
department and the work is underway.
Third major step that I have taken and I have completed the feasibility report for that is the
opening of pathology department to private sector. For Aga Khan University Medical College, a
big source of income is their diagnostic laboratory. We have the facilities and ample M. Phil and PhD students working in pathology department. We will be opening ten collection centers
53 initially, our human resource will be posted there. Incentives will b given for shares, and in the subsequent year we will be opening lab collection centers in other parts of the country too.
How do you see yourself interacting with the general student body on a day to day basis?

Eds: What differences do you see in Kemcolians of 1985(when you graduated) and
Kemcolians of 2011?
If you walk from Patiala Block to university auditorium you can judge the students. I do not go
via car. I send my car to eye department and walk myself. When we were students and teachers used to pass, we stood up in respect. But now when teachers walk past students keep on sitting.
They do not bother that a teacher is walking. This is the difference; respect level has declined.
Although the most fascinating and pleasurable activity of the day is interacting with students. I
do not enjoy anything else more than this. On road, in office, wherever. I do not have much time for social networking on internet; otherwise there are many friend requests on face book. From 8o clock in the morning till 11 o clock night, I am busy in the university or in hospital, so I do not have much time.

Eds: Tell us something about your charity work.
I got three charity hospitals established in Lahore. In 1994 I started a trust hospital in Garhi
Shaho with the help of my relatives. I am still doing surgery twice a week there, Tuesday and
Friday from 3 to 6 o clock in the evening. Then another charity hospital on Litton road, another
one in Wassan Pura, Ayesha Siddiqa trust hospital. In addition in early 80s, I used to get
donations and run my ward free. MS mayo hospital Dr. Ranjha came to me and asked me how
the free medication was arranged. I told him it was only RS. 52,000 that was required to provide free medication in the ward and that was provided by my brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts. He was surprised that how could free ward be run at such a low price. Reason was that I negotiated with companies and got medicines at a very low price. MS said that I wish to take over your ward, to which I said that he will have to take over all three wards then. He started providing free medicines to these wards. Gradually this spread to the surgery, medicine wards, ortho, paediatrics and other wards. Then it spread to all other government hospitals as well.

Eds: You were part of the committee established to resolve young doctors' rift with Punjab government. What are your views on the subject? Do you justify the YDA? On the other hand what do you think of the brain drain taking place in Pakistan? How in your opinion can it be stopped?
I do not justify YDA. I do not care about other hospitals, but at least I do not like it for
kemcolians. It is a crime to refuse treatment to a patient. It is against our ethics. Even during war we are supposed to provide treatment to enemy, so how can we think of refusing treatment to our own people. Protest is a right of everyone, but in our profession, refusal to treat a patient is not acceptable. I believe that anyone who wants to earn money should not join this profession. Only those who want a respectable living with blessings of poor should come to join this.
As regards brain drain, I was offered 4 lac rupees in place of 22,000 but I did not go. By
increasing salaries brain drain can be stopped, and already salaries have been increased.
Eds: There has been a lot of hue and cry from the female students regarding the boarding
facilities they are being offered. What are the short and long term steps that you have
taken to solve the girls' hostel problem?
From our own resource we have averted the money. Advertisement came in newspaper and we
will soon build a new floor in the girl's hostel. And I have written to prime minister again and
again to release 200 million rupees that were announced for girl's hostel. The new building that
is being built has four new lecture theatres, and a big auditorium. Along with the auditorium is
the examination hall in such a way that exam hall can be included in the auditorium if need there be. In next budget we have made whole plan of canteen. I have made the master plan myself.
Currently the canteen faces the road, but in the new plan it will face the anatomy ground. Only a small portion will be for patients of Mayo Hospital. By august when the syndicate approves the new budget, this project will be started. Along with canteen there will be a student facility area with photocopy, fax machine, internet facilities and souvenirs. I have also demanded 500 acres from Chief Minister. If I get that in Kala Shah Kaku, all hostels will be shifted there and within the compound there will be tennis ground, squash courts etc.

Eds: You are at a time carrying out many responsibilities , from being the Director General of Allied Vision sciences to National Coordinator of WHO for prevention of blindness to the VC of KEMU ?How do you manage to do justice to each of your jobs?
I never feel fatigue when I am working in the premises of KE and Mayo, I never feel tired. I do
not know the secret but I feel great satisfaction. When I enter the library hall, at many times it so happened with me that it was difficult for me to control my tears. Most of my life has been spent at this institution. Calculate the hours that I spend here and at home and 70% are spent here.

Eds:Do you have any regrets in life?
No, I do not. If someone whose father was at KE, who studied at KE and is now VC of KE has
regrets, then he will be the most ungrateful and thankless person alive.

Eds:What is your message to the students?
My message is that do not only become good doctors, but also become good and true
Kemcolians who respect their teachers. We want you to be not only good doctors but also good humans.


  1. awsum ... i am a family friend .. iv seen him work day n night .. i wish our politicians think him aswel .. da best part was .. "No, I do not. If someone whose father was at KE, who studied at KE and is now VC of KE has
    regrets, then he will be the most ungrateful and thankless person alive " ....:P .. stay blessd .. regards saad

  2. I would like to appreciate such a kind person which is VC of KE and also DG of COAVS, he is really working hard day and night. sir may you live long long....and may you succeed in every-field always Ameen....
    i wish to become myself just like my Sir ASAD SB...great man....
    kalim Ullah Hasni

  3. There is a myth that KEMC was built coz the wife of King Edward was died during child birth. And which king Edward was that actually??
    Edward VII or Edward VIII ???

  4. Sir, i would like to clarify certain negative propaganda about your kind self. People say that:

    1. You failed to get admission into the medical college on merit and had to be admitted on Governor's nomination.

    2. You appeared in the FCPS as well as FRCS Part-1 Examinations multiple times but failed each time and finally had to settle for the notorious qualification of MS from Punjab University. I

    3. You could not clear your professional examinations in first attempt and had to pass these in the supplementary examinations.

    If these three pieces of information are correct, then you are a very mediocre person as far a academics are concerned.

    4. You are rarely seen in the outdoors but you are always busy in obliging the influential protocol patients only.

    5. You are travelling out of the country most of the time. No other doctor is able to travel abroad as frequently as yourself. How do you manage this?

    6. You are misusing your public office to force your juniors to work at your private hospital against their will. Quite Immoral to say the least.

    7. It appears that you do not consider it bad at all to use the influence of your relatives like Justice Sardar Iqbal, Ismail Qureshi, and Sardar Ayyaz Sadiq to get the benefits you don't deserve. You know you were not the senior-most professor for VC appointment but you got this done any way, humiliating all the doctors senior to you. Some of them could not face this humiliation and opted to leave the Government Service.

    You are a good person but I would like to invite you to take a break from your busy schedule and think about what you have been doing. I am sure you have enough goodness in you to appreciate the truth mentioned above. You can still undo many wrong things you have done to many innocent people.


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