The recent allegations against PTI chairman, Imran Khan, suggesting that he misused Shaukat Khanum Hospital funds in a failed real estate deal is a smokescreen typically raised by opposition political parties. As Imran Khan's popularity grows with the restless Pakistani electorate, accusations against him will only increase; it is deplorable that the opposition is seeking to smear Khan through the free cancer hospital he established for his country.
The latest accusations are somewhat disingenuous when one considers the source -- the PML-N, whose leader Nawaz Sharaf has been under investigation for years for corrupt business practice. Khawaja Asif, and other PML-N leaders offered "proof' in a document circulated at a recent press conference in Islamabad -- a document which shows little understanding of hospital and research institute management and funding.
It is naïve to suggest that moneys donated to the hospital should not be invested through a foundation to build the endowment and increase funds available for treatment and research. This is standard practice throughout the world and global investment companies endeavor to spread their investments widely and wisely. Of course, there will be losses, as anyone who invests in stock markets can attest to. But there will be gains as well, but of course these do not make the same headlines.
In the Express Tribune, Mani Khawaja wrote:
In a press conference... Imran Khan clarified that no money had been sent abroad. [He explained that] a percentage of money collected through charitable donations from abroad goes to the endowment fund which then invests the money to earn a profit for the hospital; this later is used to provide the sick with healthcare services, which is the hospital's main agenda.
People's Sadaqat, Fitrana and Zakat are not used for anything other than treating sick patients.
Imran Khan further clarified that the endowment fund was run by an independent board of which he was not a member. He also said that the money invested was never at risk because the hospital had been guaranteed that the investment would be protected, meaning the hospital would get any profits made by the investment, but all losses would be absorbed by Imtiaz Haider's company.
Fund Managers are generally required to comply with the Foundation's investment policy, objectives and guidelines which incorporates the Foundation's policies, objectives, long-term asset allocation plan, and implementation program. Fund managers take on a fiduciary obligation to manage the Fund's assets with the care, skill, prudence and diligence under the circumstances then prevailing.
To add to the transparency and accountability of the Imran Khan Foundation, it is registered in the USA as a nonprofit corporation and a registered tax-exempt public charity under section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service, and the EIN # is 20-3770402. As such, it is subject to rigorous oversight by the U.S. authorities. In the UK, the Imran Khan Cancer Appeal/Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust is registered as number 1000580 with the Charities Commission UK.
Attacks on the integrity of the funding of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital are therefore ill-informed and obviously partisan. Since the cancer hospital and research center was founded by Imran Khan in 1994, it has become recognized as one of the most outstanding charities in Pakistan. Up till 2010 it has spent over Rs9 billion (US$130 million) on supporting the treatment of thousands of indigent cancer patients. With an impressive international reputation for excellence, the hospital in Lahore is planning to build two new inpatient units to cope with increased demand, and new hospitals are being planned for Peshawar and Karachi. Capital campaigns to fund these new hospitals will be based on the same principle of investing endowment funds to enable a stable, long-term income source for the hospitals. To suggest that the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust is acting in any improper way in its investment strategies is therefore a failure of understanding on the part of the critics.
Instead of asking "some moral questions for Imran Khan," they should ask themselves some searching moral questions about their motivations in creating these ill-informed allegations. There are plenty of examples of corruption in high places in Pakistan for them to investigate, instead of fabricating stories for political gain.
Follow Azeem Ibrahim on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@AzeemIbrahim