Pakistan Psychiatric Society organised its 22nd three day Biennial International Psychiatric Conference in Lahore. Dr Arif Alvi, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan inaugurated this conference on the 16th November 2018. During my formative years as a psychiatrist and the time that I spent in Pakistan practicing psychiatry before migrating to the UK I regularly attended the national and international conferences organised by Pakistan Psychiatric Society. Whereas these meetings were a great source of learning for me they provided me an opportunity to meet some world famous and celebrated psychiatrists from other countries such as Prof Sir David Stafford-Clark, Prof Andrew Sims, Prof Robert Bluglass CBE, and many others. These meetings were also my opportunity to meet and network with psychiatrists of our own country and develop fruitful working relationships with them. I have attended some of the PPS’s international conferences since I migrated to the UK in 1989, but despite the wish to do so was not be able to attend this year’s conference due to my work and family commitments.

In order to have my spiritual presence on the occasion of this coveted meeting I have decided to pay my tributes to my teachers and role models in psychiatry, an extraordinary husband and wife who, without a shadow of doubt can be called ‘Legends of Psychiatry’ due to their mammoth and historical contribution in the history of psychiatry of our country. They are none other than Prof Dr Ijaz Tareen and Prof Dr Khalida Tareen; their dedicated, unparalleled and extensive service in the field of mental health during the last four decades has been a beacon of light for others.

After completing their medical education and a short period of service in Mayo Hospital Lahore they decided to go abroad to pursue higher studies in mental health. They had excellent job offers to work and live in the UK for the rest of their lives following completion of their studies, but the passion to serve the downtrodden and poor mentally ill people and their families brought them back to Pakistan. This was not an easy decision to make considering the facilities and comfort being offered by an advanced country like the UK, and the odds and difficulties they could expect to face back home in Pakistan. Both the husband and wife had the right resilience and strong will to face all possible adversities that would come their way. I often think that their plan to return to Pakistan and serve the ailing humanity here was part of a greater scheme of things by Allah Almighty, the Most Gracious, and the Most Merciful. During their lengthy and arduous career of service to the mentally ill people and their families they continued to support each other with their best abilities, complementing each other in the pursuit of their supreme goal of serving the much marginalised sections of our society.

While Prof Khalida Tareen established the Department of Child Mental Health and had the honour of being the first child psychiatrist of our country, Prof Ijaz Tareen, with his undaunted will and untiring efforts, planned, organized and established a state of the art multi-purpose psychiatric department in Mayo Hospital Lahore keeping in view the long term and future mental health needs of the country. Following the imposition of restrictions on the sale and use of opium by the Government of Pakistan Dr Ijaz Tareen established a special department to cater for the treatment needs of addicted patients using his pioneering and bold initiative. This was the first and largest department of its kind in the country. Late Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, paid a fond visit to this department during her visit to Pakistan, and was highly appreciative of the good work done at this department.

Soon after their return to the country they established a charity for the Emotionally and Mentally Handicapped Children to provide them with their unmet needs of education, training and rehabilitation, with the help of a few like-minded friends and colleagues. In 1981 “Special Education and Training Centre”, a school was established under their dynamic leadership in a rented building and this was subsequently shifted to Johar Town Lahore in its permanent building. With the passage of time the services offered by this school were expanded in that the children and women from lower socio-economic group and homeless families were also provided with educational facilities.

Prof Khalida Tareen had the honour of being on the Advisory Panel of the WHO on Mental Health. The Government of Pakistan awarded her Sitara-i-Imtiaz in recognition of her services in the area of social and academic field. She is also Professor Emeritus, Child Psychiatry at King Edward Medical University Lahore.

Prof Ijaz Tareen, as Head of the Academic Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, King Edward Medical College, launched a fight against the stigma faced by the marginalized population of the society suffering from mental illnesses despite his heavy academic and research pursuits. I was lucky to work with him as a trainee psychiatrist after completing my medical education. Describing his personality as a teacher, a physician, a dedicated mental health worker and encompassing his selfless services for the mentally ill is a tall order.

It has been nearly three decades since I have been working as a psychiatrist in the United Kingdom. During this time I have visited a number of countries where I had the opportunity to meet numerous academics and research scholars and exchanged views with them. I can say with confidence and full authority that none of them was able to impress me the way Prof Ijaz Tareen did. Throughout my psychiatric career I have had the privilege of access to his advice and guidance on numerous clinical issues where I needed help and support in the treatment and management of my patients. Speaking to him has been an education for me since I have known him. In my view he is the only psychiatrist who is not only well known in our country but all around the globe for his academic abilities, gentle and graceful personality.

Prof Andrew Sims, former Dean and President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists UK sent an email to Prof Ijaz Tareen’s daughter, Dr Eaisha Tareen, last year and said “I wondered if you had a picture / photograph which you could send me of your father. I have looked him up on the internet and he is such a modest fellow that although there are masses of pictures of his colleagues and students there are none of him. I have to give a lecture in Leeds in a few weeks and I thought I would talk about some of the people who have influenced psychiatry around the world, hence my request”.

It is my considered opinion that Prof Ijaz Tareen’s contribution in establishing a humane way of practicing clinical psychiatry in our country has not only revolutionised but completely changed the way psychiatry is seen today in Pakistan. His way of clinical practice has resulted in restoring the respect and self-esteem of mentally ill patients and their families and has helped in removing the stigma of mental illness from the society. His journey to uplift the face of psychiatry started from Bahawalpur in 1970’s, made its way through Multan, and continued in Lahore. This historical contribution puts him in the league of some of the most renowned personalities in the 18th century known for the moral therapy movement in the field of psychiatry such as William Tuke of the UK, Philippe Pinel of France and Benjamin Rush of the USA. A few years ago a hall was named after Prof Ijaz Tareen in the Department of Psychiatry, Mayo Hospital Lahore, in recognition of his academic services; this hall is now known as “Tareen Hall”.

The desire to serve the poor and down trodden sections of the community had always been close to his heart and was evidenced in his student life when he established a ‘Lending Library’ for the poor and needy students while he was a President of the College Union. During those days the College magazine KEMCOL published an article “Service Before Self” about his charitable activities. Since his retirement from government service his charitable work for the poor mentally ill patients has continued unabated through his free clinics.

I sincerely hope and wish that both Prof Khalida Tareen and Prof Ijaz Tareen, the legends of psychiatry, continue to serve the weak and needy mentally ill patients of our society. I also pray that both continue to enjoy good health and that Allah Almighty gives them long life so that they continue to serve humanity in the years to come. I have no doubt in my mind that their untiring and remarkable efforts to improve the plight of the mentally ill and mental health services in the country will prove to be a guiding source for the future generations of our doctors and their name will serve as a landmark in the history of our country.


The writer is a Senior Psychiatrist and Medical Director at the Cygnet Health Care UK.