This is a story of two medical colleges that refused to die.
It took some hard work on the part of a few dedicated people to stop the forces that were determined to close those colleges. One was Deccan Medical College in Hyderabad, India, and the second was Khyber Medical College (KMC) in Peshawar, Pakistan. While those two institutions are almost 2,000 km apart in two different countries, animosity, prejudice, and highhandedness were the common denominators in each case.
First, we speak of Deccan Medical College in Hyderabad, India. The college is also known as Deccan College of Medical Sciences.
It was built in 1984 as a private medical college by Dar-us-Salam Educational Trust, a self-financing minority Muslim institution. The trust was founded in 1973 by Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, a philanthropist and a one-time member of the Indian parliament. While the trust had built many other schools since its inception, the establishment of a private Muslim medical college was its first effort in the field of medicine. Soon after its establishment, however, it ran into trouble with the state government of Andhra Pradesh.
As it happens with any new medical college, it takes time to get the college recognized by the competent authority, in this case Indian Medical Council. The state government, on the flimsiest of reasons, issued orders to close the college. The chief minister of the Andhra Pradesh government was a well-known actor and politician N. T. Rama Rao. Local efforts to save the college didn’t succeed. Somehow the news reached Dilip Kumar in Mumbai that the newly established Muslim medical college in Hyderabad was on the chopping block.
Dilip Kumar decided that the best avenue was to meet the chief minister in person. He drove 630 km by road to reach Hyderabad late at night. He rested in a hotel overnight an
d in the morning appeared at the office of the chief minister. The chief minister was stunned to see Dilip Kumar at his office. He touched the legend’s feet and said that if Dilip Kumar wanted to see him, he would have come to his home in Mumbai. Dilip Kumar was forthright. He told Rama Rao that he had come with a request to save Deccan Medical College from closure. The chief minister called his personal assistant and issued the necessary orders on the spot.
Thus, the second Muslim medical college in Hyderabad was saved by the personal intervention of Dilip Kumar.
Dilip Kumar never mentioned this incident to anyone, including
his biographers. This story, however, was related by Subhan Abdul Latif Khan, a highly respected and prominent citizen of Hyderabad.
Today Deccan College of Medical Sciences is among the prominent medical institutions in Andhra Pradesh. After Osmania Medical College that was established in 1846, it is the only other Muslim college in that state.
Now the story of Khyber Medical College (KMC), Peshawar, in Pakistan.
The people of the North West Frontier Province (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province) relied on King Edwards Medical College in Lahore for teaching and training of students from their province. The central government had set a quota of seats in King Edwards for students from the Frontier. But that number, usually less than ten, was insufficient to meet the needs of people of NWFP. Soon after the creation of Pakistan in 1947, there were discussions about starting a medical college in the province.
The godfather of the proposed new college was Col. Monawar Khan Afridi. A graduate of Kind Edwards Medical College, he went to Britain for post-graduation and received an MD from the University of St Andrews. He was admitted as a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. He served during WWII in the Indian Medical Service and received the Cross of the British Empire for his services. He served as deputy director of World Health Organization, Director General Health in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and later in the same post in NWFP. It is significant that Col. Afridi, as director general of health in Dhaka, has designed and established Dhaka Medical College.
In Peshawar he collaborated with the province’s chief minister Sardar Abdul Rashid to plan the college. They chose the name Khyber Medical College for the proposed institution. Initial funding came from the chief minister’s discretionary fund collected from taxation of fruit export out of the province. That amount, Rs. 9,800,000, was the initial seed money for the college. The Governor General Ghulam Muhammad laid the foundation stone on the 2nd of May, 1954. Construction started in earnest soon thereafter. The first batch of 60 students were admitted and classed started in September 1955.
Local difficulties facing the new medical college were insignificant compared to what was on the horizon in the soon-to-be-created province of West Pakistan. The director general health Punjab, soon to be director general health West Pakistan, had made it public that once West Pakistan Province comes into existence, he would either close the college or degrade it to the level of a diploma (LSMF) school. Two high officials were on record to oppose the opening of a medical college at Peshawar. According to Dr. Syed Raza Ali, former principal and professor of medicine at Khyber Medical College, Lt. Col S.M.K. Malik as director general health was vehemently against the new college. One other high official, Dr. M.J. Bhutta, on visiting the college, compared it sarcastically to a poultry farm. It seems the die was cast.
If both gentlemen had studied the history of their own alma mater, King Edwards Medical College in Lahore, they would have realized that all medical colleges in the beginning are makeshift institutions. In 1860 Lahore Medical School (later renamed King Edwards Medical College) was started in the artillery barracks (current location of Government College) and the hospital in the stables of Raja Suchet Singh near Tibbi Bazar.
Whether the colleges take their humble start as a ‘chicken farm’ or in an ‘animal stable’ is beside the point. Most new institutions are not fully functional on Day One. They need moral and material support in the early nascent period. That was sorely missing under the leaderships of Dr. S.M.K. Malik and Dr. M.J. Bhutta. They stand out as real villains in the eyes of graduates of Khyber Medical College.
On October 14, 1955, the four provinces of West Pakistan were to become parts of one West Pakistan Province with Lahore its capital and one directorate of health for the entire province. Once Khyber Medical College came under the jurisdiction of the West Pakistan Health Services, the director general could close the college down.
As the clock ticked, Chief Minister Abdul Rashid Khan and Col. Afridi, now vice chancellor of Peshawar University, found a way to save the college from closure. Sardar Rashid being vehemently opposed to the creation of One Unit was eased out of his job as chief minister. The incoming chief minister Sardar Bahadur Khan (elder brother of Field Marshall Ayub Khan) served in the job for two months but was able to have the provincial assembly pass the resolution opting to join One Unit.
On Thursday October 13, 1955, the provincial assembly met late in the evening to conduct one last important business. Before adjourning sine die (indefinitely), the legislature voted to transfer the control of 2-weeks old Khyber Medical College to the University of Peshawar. The university being a semi-autonomous entity was not under the jurisdiction of the provincial health department. Khyber Medical College was the only medical college in Pakistan that was run by a university for the duration of One Unit.
The seeds of dissent against One Unit were sown early by those who opposed the merger. The previous provinces of NWFP, Baluchistan and Sindh thought they were not getting their fair share of funds from the central and provincial governments. Gradually, the people – not only in the former three provinces but also in the Punjab – started feeling that the mega province was not in their best interest. There were calls for the dissolution of One Unit but the central government, particularly Field Marshal Ayub Khan, were not ready to abandon the concept. It took 15 long years for the Government of Pakistan to realize that One Unit was a failure. It was during General Yahya Khan’s military rule that One Unit was finally dissolved and the four provinces resumed their previous identities. It would take another year for the restoration of civilian rule in 1972.
The first act of the NWFP provincial assembly was to transfer the college back to the provincial government.
Since its inception in 1955, KMC has done very well. It is among the top medical colleges in Pakistan. Its graduates have been successful beyond expectations and serve on all continents of the world. Three of its graduates, Sania Nishtar, Amjad Hussain and Zulfiqar Bhutta, are the only Pakistanis admitted to the Global Medical Mission Hall of Fame. One graduate, Zulfiqar Bhutta, is the recipient of a top WHO award for his pioneering work in maternal and child health. Omar Taimur Atiq is the first foreigner to chair the Board of Governors of the American College of Physicians, the largest organization of physicians in the world. KMC graduates were in the forefront and played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent (APPNA) in North America. The list of achievements of KMC graduates is long and impressive.
Both Deccan College of Medical Sciences and KMC were saved from sure closure by dedicated and thoughtful people who rose above the petty state and provincial politics to change the course of events.
Note: Material for Khyber Medical College story was taken from History of Khyber Medical College by Dr. Ghulam Taqi Bangash (private publication 1993).
Dr. Sayed Amjad Hussain is an emeritus professor of surgery and an emeritus professor of humanities at the University of Toledo, USA. His is also an op-ed columnist for the daily Toledo Blade and daily Aaj of Peshawar. He may be reached at email@example.com
What a delightful story
It brings to life the history of my alma mater and its glorious past
Stay blessed Dr Sayed Amjad Hussain for introducing these jewels of past heritage to the readers….
Such a beautiful story of Khyber Medical College Peshawar & Dacian Medical College , a second Muslim medical college in Hyderabad Daccan thousands of miles apart & in two different countries, saved from extinction by Dilip Kumar( Yousaf Khan) in India & sardar Abdul Rasheed, CM of NWFP(Now KPK) & Col.Monawar Khan Afridi DG Health NWFP in Pakistan. I owe me being a 1970 graduate of KMC & so many others to these gentlemen who made history by saving these two medical colleges against all odds. We the people of Khyber Pakhtun Khwa in Pakistan & those in Andra Pardesh in India are immensely indebted to these people who will always be remembered. May AllahSWT bless their souls.
It could not have come at a better time and from someone better. For no good reason an alumnus is despondent and reading this was really inspiring.
I just have the apprehensions that we followers don’t have the depth of character that the vanguard had.
Hopefully it’s just an apprehension and nothing more.