Tall claims but no assistance for ailing Saraiki poet

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LAHORE: Renowned Saraiki poet and intellectual from the South Punjab, Shakir Shujabadi awaits fulfillment of government’s promise regarding his treatment.

Shakir Shujabadi is a great poet of Saraiki language and is considered authority over Saraiki poetry. He has great fame and respect in South Punjab and has won many prizes at national level for authoring 11 books. Now a day, he is suffering from a mental disease and is admitted to the Lahore General Hospital. Shakir also wrote poetry in Urdu, Punjabi and other languages.

In a written conversation with News Lens Pakistan, Shakir said, “I do not need any thing for me because I have spent my life. But future of my children should be ensured and the government should take care of them after my death.”

In an interview with News Lens Pakistan, Shakir’s son Naveed Shakir said his father had won many medals at national level for his great work in Saraiki poetry and literature. But, he said, medals and shields were not enough for treatment.  Their father needed money for the treatment.

Naveed claimed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had promised free treatment for his father on February 7, 2014 and a job for one of his sons, during a public rally in Bahawalpur. “The promise has not been fulfilled despite lapse of one year,” he added.

He said his father suffered this disease in 2004 and since then had not been able to speak properly.  He further told that the financial assistance of worth PKR 150,00,00 announced by the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was not paid.

Dr. Anjum Habib Vohra who is treating Shakir at the Lahore General Hospital told News Lens Pakistan that the poet was suffering from a mental disease called ‘Dystonia’. Various surgical tests were being conducted on regular basis.

According to him, “Shakir is unable to speak properly due to the disease. The treatment for Dystonia needs about PKR 2 million and Shakir’s family is not ready for the treatment since they do not have enough money for it.” However, Vohra said Shakir had been given a private room and a medical board was regularly examining him.

National Saraiki Party’s Chairman Sajida Langah held Shakir as an inspirational poet who had depicted deprivations of the masses through his poetry. “It was his poetry that inspired me and I decided to opt for politics. He is a great asset of Saraiki area who has taught the people how to fight against feudal lords, the cruel rich and the mighty forces,” Sajida told News Lens Pakistan during a telephonic interview.

She described Shakir as a spokesperson of the poor’s emotions especially deprived and depressed dwellers of South Punjab.  Sajida suggested that an institution should be set up to recognize Shakir’s literary worth so that his motivational messages were conveyed to coming generations.

In February 2014, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a job, monthly stipend and house for Shakir. The promise was never materialized. Later, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced PKR 25,000 monthly stipend for him but that was delivered only once this January.

The ruling party PML-N leader and the Punjab government spokesperson Zaeem Qadri said he had visited Lahore General Hospital and inquired the health of ailing poet.  “A five-member medical board has been constituted in LGH which is regularly checking Shakir’s health.”

“The Chief Minister Shahbaz is personally bearing all the expenses of the treatment. The government is also ensuring royalty of his books from publishers so that he can meet daily expenditures of his life,” he added.  He said the government would continue assistance for Shakir since the poet was a national asset.

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