COVID Crisis: Pakistani-American Physicians Express Solidarity With the People of India

“Many of us are helping them (the people of India) through various means, while physicians among us regularly extend pro bono telemedical help to colleagues and patients in India,” says the statement.

New Delhi: Pakistan-origin physicians based in the US have expressed solidarity with colleagues and the people of India as the country battles a deadly second wave of the coronavirus, offering their services through telemedical help.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of India as they face the needless tragedies catalysed by the coronavirus pandemic,” says a statement by the Association of Pakistani Physicians of New England (APPNE), which represents over 350 medical practitioners.

“Many of us are helping them (the people of India) through various means, while physicians among us regularly extend pro bono telemedical help to colleagues and patients in India,” says the statement.

The initiative comes after 95-year old former Pakistani journalist Zawwar Hasan, who is originally from Allahabad and is now living in California, gave a call for cross-border unity against the pandemic. Representatives of the recently launched South Asia Peace Action Network met last Friday with some US-based physicians, leading to the statement.

The Pakistan government has also offered to help India, while citizens of the country also trended #StandWithIndia on social media.

The statement has been endorsed by over 125 physicians, healthcare workers, entrepreneurs, academics, businesspersons and others of Pakistani and South Asian origin, and allies and friends of SouthAsia. Endorsements have come from across Pakistan, the US, Bahrain, Canada, Germany and Greece, according to SAPAN.

The signatories also extended their “deepest condolences” to all those who have lost family members of friends to COVID-19.

The statement also sounds a note of alarm about the potential crisis brewing in other South Asian nations.

“We fear that the crisis India is facing now has the potential to engulf other countries with similar healthcare systems. We must use the lessons learnt from the colossal tragedy in India to introspect and take urgent action now to prevent similar crises elsewhere,” says the statement.

The endorsers urge the government to increase healthcare funding on an urgent basis. “We observe the similarities between South Asian nations like Pakistan and India where the poor are left to fend for themselves, and even those with the means are stretched for resources when a calamity of such proportions overpowers already underfunded healthcare systems.”

“We urge all governments, particularly India and Pakistan, to use this time of crisis as an opportunity to urgently work on repairing and investing not only in their healthcare systems but also their relations with each other,” they added.

The signatories note it is “beyond time” for India and Pakistan to work actively to decrease hostilities and spend more resources on health and education. “This is imperative for the sake of our coming generations and the future of our planet,” they say.

The statement is endorsed by APPNE president Yousaf Shaikh, MD, past president APPNE Salman Malik, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Naheed Usmani, MD, past president Association of Physicians of Pakistani descent of North America (APPNA), Dr Rizwan C. Naeem, past president, APPNA NY chapter, and Siraj Khan, president, Pakistan Association of Greater Boston (PAGB).

Dr Dhrumil Shah, president, Indian Medical Association of New England (IMANE) has also endorsed the statement of solidarity with his country of origin.

Prominent endorsements from Pakistan include feminist activists like Sheema Kermani, Zohra Yusuf and Kausar S. Khan in Karachi, advocate Rukshanda Naz in Peshawar, and political scientist Saba Gul Khattak in Islamabad. Well known singer Arieb Azhar, Ajoka Theatre’s Shahid Nadeem, labour leader Karamat Ali, public intellectuals and physicists A.H. Nayyar and Pervez Hoodbhoy, and Mehboob Ali Shaikh, president of the Karachi-based think-tank Sindh Vision have also signed the statement.

Signatories outside Pakistan include late famed actor Latif Kapadia’s daughter Aquila Aswat in California, Rachel Wyon of US-based environmental organisation Mothers Out Front, and Pakistani origin filmmaker and journalist Afnan Khan in Germany.