- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2005

A group of doctors and nurses of Indian and Pakistani origin from Washington left yesterday for Pakistan, where a devastating earthquake last week killed tens of thousands.

Man-made boundaries and the long-standing animosity between the two countries are trivial for this group of 18 medical professionals.

“I think we just see ourselves as doctors without borders, providing our services on such a humane mission,” said Dr. Farzad Najam, assistant professor of surgery at George Washington University and a native of Pakistan.

“If this happened in India, I will still want to go,” said Dr. Najam, who helped coordinate the effort.

“Political differences don’t deter us. Indian and Pakistani doctors work together and are friends on a personal level,” he said.

The voluntary group of trauma surgeons and experts from Georgetown University and George Washington University will fly to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, and will be taken to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir by army helicopters.

“It’s a first-responders unit and once we establish medical units there, a few other groups of doctors will follow us for a similar week to 10-day stint,” Dr. Najam said.

Although there are only two Indians with this team, there are already some others pledging their support and another group is preparing to leave soon.

“I am willing to go; it’s for a humanitarian cause,” said Dr. Ram Trehan, a doctor at the Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring who is of Indian origin.

“I have worked as a doctor in the Indian army and have treated earthquake victims before and my expertise could be really useful,” he said.

As the group prepared to depart, other Pakistanis held a fundraiser in Potomac at the home of prominent cardiologist Dr. Mubashar Choudry.

Pakistani Ambassador Jehangir Karamat attended as did Chaudhary Parvez Elahi, chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab region.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of which were over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, but relations between the nations have been improving in recent years.

After last Saturday’s 7.6 quake, India announced humanitarian aid and troops to Pakistan. Although Pakistan declined the offer of troops, it allowed Indian planes to delivery relief supplies.

Dr. Trehan said the two countries have much more in common and share their histories. “We speak the same language, and if you take the politicians aside, I don’t know what we fight about,” he said.

Dr. Trehan also has a personal reason to visit Pakistan. His grandfather moved to India from what is now Pakistan after the partition of India in 1947. He has longed to visit the country for a number of years and wants to see his ancestral home if possible, he said.

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