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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 17:58 GMT
Pakistani doctor wins Ukrainian hearts
Gohar Ali Shah, head of village council
Gohar Ali Shah has a clinical approach to politics

Pakistan remains an exotic faraway land to most Ukrainians - but in one village, it has suddenly come much closer to home.

Though foreigners are still a relative novelty outside Ukraine's big cities, a Pakistani man has swept to victory in council elections in the village of Mala Lepetykha, 300 miles south of the capital Kiev.

Gohar Ali Shah beat the incumbent, a village native, by three votes to one, Ukraine's Novyy Kanal TV said.

Dr Ali Shah says Ukraine means immeasurably more to him than to many of his former compatriots, who occasionally get caught there while trying to cross illegally into the European Union.

I approach every problem like a disease
Dr Gohar Ali Shah
He came to Ukraine in search of an education. But he also found love - in the person of his Ukrainian wife Lidiya - and now power, as the top official in the village.

Secret of success

The "Ukrainian Pashtun", as he has been dubbed in the media, comes from a big and affluent Pakistani family. He graduated from a Ukrainian medical university and settled down in Mala Lepetykha several years ago.

Dr Gohar won the villagers' hearts after taking over as head of the local hospital, three years ago.

I don't know how things will pan out, but we are pleased with the first steps he has taken
Vasyl Kotenkov, district administration chief
When the cash-strapped district authorities refused funds for refurbishment, the Pakistani physician did not give up but called on volunteers to go round the village on a fund-raising mission.

And when the money was collected and repairs completed, Dr Gohar accounted for every single penny he had spent - a rare example of official probity in corruption-ridden Ukraine.

Dr Gohar believes medicine is the ultimate problem-solver, with the power to cure not only the ills of the human body, but also those of society.

"I approach every problem like a disease," the doctor told Ukrainian television in fluent Russian, which is widely spoken in southern Ukraine.

"What do you do about a disease? You question the patient properly and carry out a thorough examination and analysis, in order to come up with the right diagnosis."

"Once you have the right diagnosis, then you can prescribe the right treatment."

'Pearl'

The district authorities have expressed no concern at the change of power in the village.

"I don't know how things will pan out, but we are pleased with the first steps he has taken," the district administration chief, Vasyl Kotenkov, told Novyy Kanal.

The TV explained that the doctor's name, Gohar, means "pearl".

The villagers are hopeful that their Pashtun leader will live up to his name, proving himself a brilliant acquisition for the village.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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