Not just a statistic

Dr Mehdi_resize

Dr Mahdi Ali was a successful cardiologist based in Columbus Ohio, USA. He had been in North America since 1991 after originally leaving Pakistan for Canada to pursue his medical career. Despite the years away, Ali never forgot about his cultural roots. As an Ahmadi, few could have blamed him had he made every attempt to distance himself from Pakistan; after all his native land had only ever dealt the cruelest hand to those who shared his faith. But that would have been out of character for a man like him.

When Pakistan’s Ahmadi community initiated a scheme to build a state-of-the-art cardiac hospital in Chenab Nagar, Rabwah, Ali was afforded the perfect opportunity to give something back to his country.  Not only was he one of the principle authors of the project, but once the Tahir Heart Institute was opened he became a donor of cardiac stents, and would often take a sabbatical from his place of work, the Fairfield Medical Centre, to volunteer his expertise to the hospital. Unaffected by the religious schisms that often threaten to tear Pakistan apart, Ali would discharge medical care to patients of all backgrounds, religions, caste or creed. Not a single person who came to him for treatment was turned away.

But in the cruelest of ironies, Dr Ali paid for this altruistic spirit with his life. At around 5:30 am, on Monday 26 May, just two days into his most recent visit to Pakistan, the physician was shot dead in a targeted killing in front of his wife and three year old child. He had been due for his first day in the OPD in just a couple of hours. He and his family were visiting the Bahishti Maqbara (the main cemetery), when two unknown assailants approached them on motorbikes and opened fire. Ali died immediately; slain by the very people he had come to help. Some miseries are so terrible one can not even find comfort in the poignancy they hold deep within. The assassination of Dr Ali is one of them.

The murder of Ahmadis in Pakistan is nothing new. 236 have been killed for reasons of religion since the Military dictator, General Zia, introduced Ahmadi-specific laws in 1984 which effectively criminalised every aspect of the community’s life in the country. So frequent have these massacres become that news of an Ahmadi murder is all too often greeted with a resigned shrug, rather than the fierce outrage it should incite. Either the people hate and revel in the news of another apostate put to the sword, or they are not such hopeful fools as would expect a different outcome to this oft repeated tragedy. The narrative has been replayed so many times now, everyone knows the finer details of the plot. Better to accept fate than to mourn over that which cannot be changed.

The truth, however, is that the story is never the same. The dead are not just statistics. They lived and breathed the splendour of the world and when their lives were prematurely snatched away their radiance left its own distinctive void. Each one has their own individual story, and each story deserves to be told.

Dr Mahdi Ali was the youngest child in his family. Born to a devoted family in Pakistan who were among the earliest adherents of Ahmadiyyat, he experienced the sectarian killing of his grandfather in 1974. In this hostile environment of heavy discrimination, he fought against the many obstacles that beset his path and created for himself and his family a happy, prosperous and meaningful life. His story took in thousands of miles, three countries, two continents, a devoted wife, three loving sons, work colleagues who held him in the highest regard, numerous charitable endeavours and thousands of patients whose lives he touched and made better. And then in the land of his forefathers, he was brutally murdered for these sins.

2 Responses to “Not just a statistic”
  1. Shermeen Butt says:

    Dr Mehdi Ali’s life and indeed his passing was of the selfless eminence that few attain. You make sense of abject senselessness, so well done.

  2. Hamid Hussain says:

    “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when
    they do it from religious conviction.” Blaise Pascal

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