Journey of self-reliance ( Mehnaz Akbar )
Written By Khalid Irshad

As I turned up in front of the yellow-painted house, I was overwhelmed after reading a name plate Dr Mehnaz Akbar Hamdani, gynecologist and pediatrician. The achievement behind this name plate gave me a sense of elevation.such an elevation a gardener feels when his toil bears fruit. Dr Mehnaz along with her mother was there to greet me. Her face wore a glittering satisfaction as well as sparkling confidence.

She was making a mention of hurdles she faced during her studies. Every word was a reminiscence of her agony and anguish she braved during the course of her studies and moved every member of the audience, including former Federal Education Minister Lt Gen (r) Javed Ashraf Qazi, who was guest of honour at the awards ceremony.

Mehnaz had been orphaned at a very tender age. Tears flooded her eyes as she began sharing her bitter recollections. But now, she had become a doctor and a source of income as well as inspiration for her younger siblings.

I asked her to summarise her journey to self-sufficiency as it could act like a beacon for many other young men and women gripped by miseries and hopelessness.

Mehnaz said: My father got an employment in German city of Munich. Our family was considered well-off in the area. My father also built a mosque in Munich.

In 1990, my father decided to return to Pakistan. He started running a pesticide outlet in Mansehra. One day, he passed away suddenly. At that time, my elder brother Mazhar was just 16 and a student of matriculation. He had to handle the business left by our father in a very young age.

Some greedy friends and cunning relatives started exploiting the vulnerability of Mazharss mercantile capabilities owing to lack of experience and expertise and thus began harming our business. Mazhar could not duck the tricks of cunning people, who extorted money on one pretext or the other untilour whole business collapsed. At last, we had to dispose of the shop.

Mazhar’s educational career also doomed along with the business. This impacted heavily on Mazhar’s personality as he suffered a huge emotional set back and could not recover until next couple of years.

Severe economic constraints gripped our family. I was studying in Class V at that time while my elder sister was in matriculation. Our mother decided to cut her coat according to cloth instead of borrowing money from relatives to bring us up ‘lavishly’.

We had a four-kanal piece of agricultural land which our mother leased out. She had some gold ornaments as well which she sold at several occasions to run the family. However, she always encouraged all of us to study whole-heartedly and become self-reliant.

In the meantime, Mazhar started some petty works to run the household after abandoning his studies. However, all the remaining siblings always stood top in their classes and thus automatically qualified for a waiver of their admission/tuition fee on the basis of their outstanding performance.

I matriculated with very good grades and a private institution, Al-Quran Beacon College, Mansehra, offered me free of charge admission in F.Sc. I also passed F.Sc. in good grades. I wanted becoming a doctor but I knew that my mother would not be able to finance my expensive studies. So I stopped hoping against the hope of any miracle and abandoned my idea to get admission to any medical college. However, my family encouraged me a lot and I took medical entry test which I cleared and was finally offered admission in Ayyub Medical College. My mother sold out the remaining ornaments while my sister’s husband also helped us out in collecting Rs32,000 admission fee.

My younger siblings were still studying in college, so our mother sold agricultural land too to send the elder one, Mazhar, to Dubai. However, my brother could not find any suitable job in Duabi and returned after three years of futile stay in the Emirate. Our family landed in more despair and my younger brother, Jamil, also abandoned his B.Com after falling prey to depression and frustration mainly because of our poverty.

As I was about to complete my first year, collection of second year’s fee began frightening me. However, by the grace of God and duo to Jamaat-i-Islami’s intervention, the second year fee was reduced to a half. My mother disposed of some valuables and borrowed some money as well to deposit Rs15,000 tuition fee. Now the next task was to deposit third-year’s fee.

When I went to the vice-principal with a request to waive my fee, he disappointed me further by saying that why I had taken admission if I had no money to pay for the college fee. His remarks hurt me a lot.

Only two or three days had passed when a teacher told me about the KIF. I contacted the foundation, though half-heartedly, and received an application form, which I submitted along with relevant documents to the KIF. After sometime, I received third year’s tuition fee. Besides, I was promised that more money would be sent to fulfill my needs. This was indeed a great rescue of a person gripped by miseries and hopelessness.

My brother Jamil also resumed his commerce studies while sister Rabia was doing her F.Sc. The KIF also motivated its allied organization, Himmat Trust, to help us. This was how we started undertaking our studies satisfactorily but solely with the cooperation of KIF and Himmat Trust. I continued to receive fee, books and traveling expenses till I graduated as an MBBS doctor.

After graduation, I got employment with UNFA as medical officer. Jamil had also completed his B.Com while Rabia was in fourth year of B.Sc. Soon after getting employed, I wrote to the KIF, thanking them for their cooperation and conveying them that I want to bear the expenses of my siblings from now onwards.

This is a unique incident in which an orphan and hapless girl had become self-reliant with the cooperation of knowledge-friendly and philanthropist individuals and organizations.

She said that she was always thankful to the organizations which reached out to their family and helped them out. My younger brother wanted to become a Chartered Accountant while my sister Rabia wanted to complete her masters in banking and finance. I am sponsoring them both. Jamil is studying in Islamabad while Rabia in Hazara University.

By the grace of God, I bear their monthly expenses up to thousands of rupees out of my medical practice. Besides employment, I am running a clinic at my residence where I treat poor women of the area, especially during pregnancy/delivery. I also command a great respect in my area.

This respect and confidence is all because of the KIF. Had it not helped me out, I would have not completed my studies and earned a prosperous life I am enjoying now.

I intend to do specialization in future but only after my siblings completed their studies. After that, I will also be able to help out other needy students, Dr Mehnaz wowed.