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Saturday, 6 February 2016
Paraplegic expat triumphs against all odds
Amjad Siddiqi, a paraplegic, has led an exemplary life without letting his disability define him. He now successfully runs three manufacturing industries and two trading companies in Riyadh.
Siddiqi says he believes that physically disabled persons can lead a normal life, but for this, they must have faith in themselves
He is an embodiment of the famous saying, ‘where there is a will there is a way’.
Wheelchair-bound but ‘not out of the race’
A successful businessman and humanitarian, 57-year-old Siddiqi lost the use of the lower half of his body after an accident in 1981, when he was travelling between Riyadh and Madina in Saudi Arabia. Since his accident, he has been confined to a wheelchair but has achieved what most able-bodied people can only dream of.
Siddiqi graduated from Government College Sargodha and went to Saudi Arabia in search of a better job. While there, he had the accident yet has never let his misfortune haunt his life, and has faced all hardships with courage and bravery.
Sharing his experiences with The Express Tribune, he said he underwent a nine-month treatment in Riyadh’s Central Hospital, followed by 10 months in a rehabilitation centre in London. Despite this extensive treatment, his injuries remained.
He then returned to Pakistan only to face negative and unsupportive behaviour from his family and friends. He said many of them abandoned him in the early days of his disability, including his fiancé, whose family broke off the engagement soon after his accident.
These painful experiences caused Siddiqi to once again leave for Riyadh, where he succeeded into securing a conditional job offer at the bank he had worked for prior to his accident. The terms of this job included working for three months without salary and no sick leaves.
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At this job, he worked for more than 18 hours a day, which resulted in the bank agreeing to release his salary after only a month. In 1990, his job was terminated because he was not a Saudi national.
He did not lose heart and started his own business in 1993 with the aim of becoming independent. He started a business of delivering products to a market in Riyadh. Since he could not drive a car, he made the trips to the market on his wheelchair.
After 35 years of hard work and dedication, Siddiqi is currently heading three manufacturing industries and two trading companies in the Saudi capital. He says he believes that physically disabled persons can lead a normal life, but for this, they must have faith in themselves.
He is also known for his activism, and for promoting the cause of people with special needs.
Amjad earned international acclaim in 1986 when he participated in a 21-kilometer marathon in Saudi Arabia along with 22,000 able-bodies participants. Siddiqi is the first disabled man in South Asia and the Middle East to have travelled to 53 countries alone on his wheelchair, earning him the title of ‘wheelchair man on a mission’. During this tour, he visited around 1,500 centres researching cures for spinal cord injuries.
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“The purpose of the world tour was to visit rehabilitation centres and motivate people with disabilities to live a better and productive life,” he explained.
Siddiqi has also offered his person for experiments and research on spinal cord treatments, and has undergone 30 surgical procedures till date.
He is the first person from Asia to be selected for the functional electrical stimulator treatment, which restored some movement to his muscles, allowing him to drive.
A multi-talented personality, Amjad Siddiqi has authored books.
Siddiqi’s determination, self-confidence and hard work have earned him numerous awards including the Naeem Khan Research Lab award and the Jinnah Award from the Jinnah Welfare Society.