|A Memoir of my stay in Berlin
Science considers Man an animal. The decisive factor between the two is Human Brain.
Observation, interpretation and the resultant expression are the three distinctive aspects
used by Human Brain to create a difference. In the book, I have tried to distance myself
from the animal category by using all the aforementioned three tools.
The “Memoir of my stay in Berlin” is based on my observation and experience with the
Germans and the German system. The memoir is an account of the events I came across
and the way I dealt with them. I am not a person who cries and starts begging in the face of
odds. I stood firm and stable for more than ten long months in Berlin. I have used my
knowledge and style to transform the otherwise dry account into an interesting one.
Nevertheless, I have tried to be honest and open in writing what I want to write. I have tried
to give a true and bold expression of my feelings.
The whole idea revolved around one point: for the right-provider, it is one’s duty and not
benevolence whereas, for the right-recipient, it is one’s demand and not begging.
I have also discussed as to how domestic and regional politico-economic scene in a country
affects its inhabitants both at home and abroad, especially the developing countries like
Pakistan. I could never allow anyone to take advantage of any situation against a Pakistani.
The same I discussed in Section I and Section II. One’s feeling of superiority out of
something and the consequent expression is elaborated in Section III. While passing
through the psycho-intellecto-economic crisis coupled with the protracted stay in Berlin,
how I looked back and found a forgotten aspect of national coherence has been discussed
in Section IV. Nevertheless, Section V encompasses a general discussion of various
aspects so far hidden from the writers in Pakistan.
How Pakistanis are looked vis-à-vis Indians and what is the reason of the Indian’s better
penetration in the white-world, has also been touched. It has been looked from a new and
To stay in Berlin was a life-time experience. It was equally significant to have a written
format of the account of my stay as a remembrance for the days when my hair would turn
grey. I have tried to touch a wide range of topics like human psychology, human behavior,
law, history, humour, and nationalism, etc., to keep interest of the reader alive. The work
will not be considered complete until I arrive at a logical end of my effort. The same will be
presented in the form of a full-fledge book on the same topic.
I hope that soon I will find my right (scientific right) to proceed with the research in some
other institute of the world from the point research was abandoned, to finalize the
therapeutic strategy of using bi-specific antibody to deplete B-cell lineage including Plasma
cells and consequently affecting the pathogenic autoantibody titer, which somehow
mediates Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), an incurable disease so far, in human
Dr Qaisar Rashid
Time is such an instrument, which ruthlessly slices our present and throws it backwards to
build our past. Sometimes, we have to recollect those slices in our future after reshuffling
and name those as our memory. It is the memory in a written format about one phase of life
exploring one’s experiences, feelings, events etc., to be named as a memoir.
The “Memoir of my stay in Berlin” did not commence from the moment when I got off a train
at Zoologischer Garten, Die Bahn (ground railway-station), Berlin in early September 2002,
which I rode from Frankfurt, having arrived from Lahore by Pakistan International Airline.
Instead, it started from the moment when Dr. Rudolf Manz telephonically interviewed me for
a PhD research position in his Humoral Group of Immunology at Deutsches
RheumaForschungsZentrum (DRFZ), Schumann str. 21/22, 10117 Berlin. The DRFZ is
German Rheumatism Research Centre in Berlin. Mr Manz told me that the medium of
communication at the DRFZ would be English, as the institute wanted it to be considered an
international one. This was a piece of good news for me.
I am thankful to Alexander Graham Bell for his invention, Telephone (1876), for shrinking
the distances and to Mr Manz for offering me a research position on a very significant
project to devise strategies for the depletion of B-cell populations including Plasma Cells –
in order to get rid of the effects of autoantibodies.
I believed that in the autoimmune diseases which were mediated by pathogenic
autoantibodies like Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis,
and Myasthenia Gravis, etc., the exclusion of such autoantibodies by certain methods held
potential for an earlier recovery of patients.
Hence, I sent certain solutions to Mr Manz. He approved them and, as a result, my research
position was confirmed. An invitation letter mentioning three-year PhD studentship (BAT
II/2) to that effect dated 24.06.02 was presented to the German Embassy, Islamabad. After
one and a half months, the embassy gave me permission (visa) to enter Germany.
Arrival at the Institute (DRFZ)
In the mid of September 2002, I arrived at the institute, which was in the middle (“mitte”) of
Berlin. Mr Manz, a scientist in his middle age, welcomed me. I was given a round of the
newly built institute, which was headed by Director Dr. Andreas Radbruch, a renowned
scientist of Experimental Rheumatology. His office was on the ground floor behind the
reception desk next to the foyer.
The institute was founded in 1988 and recently shifted to its present location in the Charite
campus, the largest Medical School in Germany. The institute was Germany’s biggest
rheumatology research center. Regular seminars and lectures had created an intellectual-
cum-scientific environment. Provision of mice models for autoimmune diseases was a
prominent feature. A degree of PhD from the “Alma mater berolensis” (Mother of all modern
universities) Humboldt University (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) was an attached pride.
The university was founded in October 1810 by Wilhelm von Humboldt based on the idea of
two important scientists namely Fichtel and Schleiermacher. Its shining aspect was that
Twenty-Nine Novel laureates had served it. The original university on the boulevard “Unter
den Linden” was renamed in 1949, in the wake of the Second World War, after the two
brothers Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt. The statue of either was erected at each of
its entry gates.
I was introduced to the group and other fellows and vice versa. The group consisted of Dr.
Rudolf Manz (Group leader), Gwendolin Muehlinghaus, Anja Hauser, Bimba Moewes,
Mostarac Miro (PhD students), and Anette Peddinghaus (laboratory technician). Sergio
Arce was a post-doc researcher from Brazil and he was just leaving for his country. The
laboratory of the Humoral Group of Immunology was on the second floor, entering which
required a magnetic card/key. I was welcomed with broken English, which I struggled to
Sergio Arce asked me to get the residential flat he was staying at because he was leaving
the country. In a couple of days, I shifted to Warthe str. 29, 12051 Berlin. On our way to the
flat, when he wanted to show me, I asked him twice or thrice about his experience at the
institute. Each time, he replied, “you would find it by yourself.” I did not take this reply
seriously. I saw the flat and agreed to live there. Arce introduced me to the flat owner and I
shifted my bag there.
At the institute, I was offered a working contract of one year and three months duration
written in the German language. Of this one year, the first six months would be a
probationary period. Mr Manz told me that the reason of offering me a limited duration
contract was the lack of funds. In turn, I suggested him to drop the option of paying
scholarship or cut it to a half, as my concern was the project and not money. He did not
The institute presented the contract in the German language, which was unknown to me.
Further, I knew nothing about Berlin to search for translation and hire the services of a
lawyer to understand the implications of the contract. Mr Manz had told me telephonically
that English would be the language of communication, but the contract written in the
German language upset me. I shared my concerns with Mr Manz, who assured me by
saying that there was nothing written (or hidden) in the contract that could harm my
interests. “It is just a bureaucratic procedure,” he clarified. As I was obliged by him, I signed
the contract on 23.09.02.
The assigned Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) or German Reserch Council
project was this: “Identifizierung und Depletion von krankheitsrelevanten Lymphozyten-
Subpopulation zur Therapie des SLE/SLE 323,” the translation of which is this: Identification
and depletion of chronic relevant lymphocyte subpopulations involved in the therapy of SLE
(Systemic Lupus Erythematosus). This was how, research commenced.
The memoir is divided into five sections. Each would be elaborated one by one.
1) English and German
The DRFZ was an international institute where English was a working language – both
spoken and written. The same was another important reason to join the institute on my part.
The first problem I faced was that factually the German language was spoken instead. I
never raised the objection that I was facing the language problem. The biggest mishap was
that the machines had instruction manuals and soft wares installed in the German
language. Everything was in the German language. Fellow students had books in German.
The institute was newly built. I assumed that the institute’s administration had been
transforming the local students into English.
I started adapting myself to new circumstances. However, I preferably avoided an
interaction where someone was practicing on me to improve one’s English language skills. It
was owing to short of time. I had to focus on the assigned project. Mr Manz was the only
person with group who could speak some sentences fluently. Otherwise, in the group, a few
English sentences and then breaks and pauses was the practice. I thought that they were
facing the teething problems with their language skills. English was important because all
students were required to attend a morning seminar delivered in English. Foreign guests
were invited who delivered talks in English. This aspect offered me a sense of relief and
relevance. The institute was open 24/7, which was another reason for me to think of
One thing I would say honestly, I consider the English language a compulsory medium in
this competitive world to excel, and for that matter I am a staunch follower of Sir Syed
Ahmed Khan (the founder of the Aligarh Movement). Hence, to learn the German language
was not my first preference, contrary to the practice of Sir Allama Mohammad Iqbal
(national poet) while he got a PhD from the Munich University, Germany.
In fact, I had to spend more time and pay attention to the assigned project: to devise
strategies to deplete certain cells (lymphocytes) for the therapy of Systemic Lupus
Erythematosus (SLE). To me, it was next to my life.
2) Turn and Twist
The turn in the project appeared in early November when an experiment met success on
07.11.02 (Thursday) evening. I performed it. Mr Manz and Ms Tuula Geske (institute’s
technician) both helped me with their respective roles. Mr Manz was pleased with the
outcome. The duration of one experiment was two days. I repeated it twice on weekend
(Saturday and Sunday) and got the same results, which I printed out for presentation.
The twist happened on the next working day, 11.11.02 (Monday). After a seminar, I was
called by Mr Manz to see him in his office. I presented him the printed copies of the results.
He said plainly: “People around you are not happy with you. I am sorry you cannot work on
the project. I advise you to go to some other project or back to Pakistan.” I enquired with
surprise: “If people are not happy, why did you not tell me before, why today and now?” He
shrugged his shoulders and said: “It was not important.” I asked: “Results are ready to be
announced on Thursday morning (14.11.02) in the B-cell group meeting, is it time to get
disengaged?” He said: “Results are not important to me.” I replied: “But these are important
to me as these are quite significant. Moreover, it is my right to announce and I will not
abandon it.” He said: “Let us see.” I reminded him: “You invited me here, you used to bring
food, and you even used to see me off, besides many other kinds of help, why did you not
mention that the results were not important to you?” Mr Manz kept silent.
I also said: “You knew that I did not know the German language. Everyone speaks here the
German language. So, I could not know if someone was unhappy. You should have
informed me.” He replied: “Actually, girls are not happy with you, they have developed heart-
feelings.” I said: “I pay them due respect, why and why sort of these feelings are? Let me
bring them here and let us talk. I want to know what the problem is. On (last) Thursday
morning (07.11.02), there was a closed-door weekly group meeting, why no one mentioned
any grievances?” Saying that, I went back to the laboratory and requested all of them to
come to Mr Manz’s office.
3) Revelation and Reservation
Ms Gwendolin Muehlinghaus, Ms Bimba Moewes, and Mr. Mostarac Miro came to attend the
meeting. Initially they spoke to one another in the German language that I did not know.
Then I started telling them what both of us (Manz and me) had just discussed, when Ms
Muehlinghaus exclaimed: “Look! How does he sit?” She posed with folded arms on the
chest, crossed legs and straight back imitating my posture.
I do not know if a German passes such comments on a fellow German? I had never
commented like that about gestures and postures of any one, so I asked to all the
participants: “Did I ever pass any sort of comments on any of you? Did I criticize any of
you? Did I cut jokes to any of you? Did I hinder work of any of you?” The answer was “NO”
unanimously each time. I asked: “Then what is the problem?” Ms Muehlinghaus replied:
“Learn from the Indians. Observe how do they (Indians) spend their lives here?”
At that moment, I asked to myself: “why does she emphasize to copy the Indians
(researchers from India)?” I said: “Please give words to what you want to express to enable
me to understand?” Ms Muehlinghaus responded: “You must have learnt from the Indians.
We cannot give words to what we want to say.” I said: “This is no way to speak. I am not an
asylum seeker here. You must make the point clear.” [Asylum seeker was the word
commonly used in the laboratory with contempt in broken English.]
Ms Moewes revealed: “She (Ms Muehlinghaus) has told you. The rest lies with you to
understand. This is who we are!”
Mr Manz became vocal: “They are saying that you are arrogant.”
I asked the group: “What all of you say what should happen next.” They replied: “Ask Rudi
(Mr Manz)”. I asked Mr. Manz: “What do you say, Sir.” He replied: “You used to say that
mutual respect was important. Here is no respect for you, so you have to leave.” I said:
“Yes, you are right. I leave. Copies of the results are here in front of you. Just pardon me of
anyone of you developed any heart-feelings, I remained focused on the project.” Saying
this, I left the office, went to my desk, picked up my bag, and proceeded to down-stair. On
the way, I also asked Ms Katharina Raba (FACS technician) about any accumulated
grievances, but she said that she had no complaint against me.
On my way to the exit door (downstairs in the main hall), Mr. Manz called my name from
behind. I stayed. He said: “It is really unfair with you. But you know people are unfriendly
here. I know you came from Pakistan for the project. If you require, I can shift you to some
other project in the institute.” I replied: “I came for this project only and for not any other
He raised his hand to detach my identity card from my chest. I helped him to disengage it.
(It was a magnetic card to open doors of the institute.) He again lifted his arm to shake
hand, however, I declined. He reacted: “If you make me angry, you cannot find another PhD
position in Germany.” I smiled and said: “I am not dependent on you, Sir! Germany is not
While keeping my feelings reserved, I took my way to the exit door and left the institute.
4) Patience and Perseverance
The incident was a bolt from the blue because it would cost me time and energy. I fell back
upon my stoicism to bear it. On my way to a nearby Bahn (railway station), Friedrich str., I
assured myself: I would carry on the project in some other institute of the world soon. Need
not worry, just show patience. Rely on your abilities and not on the unwanted events.
I invited myself to have a cup of coffee and exchange smiles. Be sure: perseverance would
be rewarded. I was a trustworthy friend of mine. A nearer coffee bar was my next
5) Good news and bad news
I am an admirer of coffee. It not only opens my eyes but it also makes my brain run like a
sprinter. The coffee originated in Ethiopia; discovered in Yemen; introduced to Europe by
the Ottoman Empire; and spread across the whole world, afterward, by the then colonial
On the coffee table, I thought that I had got two pieces of news for anyone who could listen
to me: the success of the experiments, besides the drawn conclusion, was the good news;
whereas sudden disengagement from the ever-interesting project was the bad news. On
the front of the bad news, I was satisfied that I had informally interviewed and got the
mindset of the research group explored.
In retrospect, I believe that I did a mistake: I informed the group and the group leader of my
weak points. That is, the value of the research project to me and the concept of mutual
respect. In an exploitative society, if I was exploited at both ends, I must not be surprised.
I thought, constructing a hypothesis, there might be genuine grievances against me
because there was a lack of communication. I reflected upon certain sentences which I
used to hear in the laboratory repeatedly but I failed to understand their implications.
Sticking in my mind, a few of the sentences were these:
a. Germany is not a land of immigration. (Deutschland ist kein Einwanderungsland)
b. German jobs for the Germans only. (Deutsche jobs nur fär die Deutschen)
c. Say ‘no’ to immigration. (Sag nein zur Einwanderung)
d. Children instead of Indians (read, Pakistanis). (Kinder statt Indianer)
e. We are the people! (Wir sind das volk!)
f. Foreigners are criminals. (Ausländer sind verbrecher)
g. Foreigners are bread snatchers. (Ausländer sind Brotschnäpper)
h. Foreigners pollute our living space (Ausländer verschmutzen unseren Lebensraum)
i. Foreigners are not welcome in Germany. (Ausländer sind nicht willkommen in
j. Foreign high skilled workers are a threat to German competitiveness (Deutsche
k. Angela Merkel would rise in the elections and throw the high skilled workers out.
l. Angela Merkel has said that multiculturalism is not required in Germany.
m. Gerhard Schröder (the Chancellor) took a wrong decision by opening Germany to
n. Gerhard Schröder would lose next elections, and foreigners would leave Germany.
I heard these slogans and utterances mostly from the mouth of Ms Muehlinghaus, whereas
Mr Miro (a student from Serbia) used to translate them for me into English. Miro used to
leave it to me to understand the insinuations. Mr Miro also informed me that Ms
Muehlinghaus was angry at Mr Manz for assigning the research project to me and not to
her, as her research project was not producing results. Mr Miro told me that Ms
Muehlinghaus pressed on Mr Manz to award the project to a German, and that Ms
Muehlinghaus was making Mr Manz accountable for not offering the project first to a
German and then to a foreigner. Sometimes, Mr Miro shared with me the racial comments
passed on me in the German language which sparked bouts of laughter in the laboratory,
throwing me into the unknown.
Mr Miro told me that the group (as well as some other German students working in other
laboratories) was not happy with my participating in the discussion (which was mostly
comprised of asking questions to explore a given subject further) in the question and
answer session of seminars in the institute.
This was contrary to the efforts of the institute’s Director Professor Andreas Radbruch, who
used to arrange seminars, invite foreign speakers, and insist on the institute’s researchers
to ask questions and discuss topics to meet the purpose of the seminars and other
conferences. The members of the Humoral research group to which I belonged preferred to
be reticent and they wanted me to remain taciturn in their presence. The message was
simple: My speaking on research discourse in their presence was tantamount to an offence.
I think that, compared to my German fellows, I was more vocal in scientific discussions
because of three reasons. First, these talks, seminars and colloquiums used to take place
in English. Second, owing to my Master's degree, I had advance knowledge of Molecular
Biology and Immunology and the latest developments in the field of research. Third, most
German research students were from non-medical background. Compared to Germans or
other Europeans, who were relaxed and easygoing, I was more conscious about my
performance and output just because I was from a developing country lagging behind in
science and technology. I think these differences were quite natural. Instead of competing
with me, if someone started casting racial slurs meant to ridicule and harm me, it was unfair.
About my detachment, Mr Manz also informed the landlord, who dropped a notice at my flat
at Warthe str. 29, 12051 Berlin to vacate it within one month.
1) Imitate Indians
I did Master’s from the University of Westminster, London, in Medical Molecular Biology. I
would have never mind had Ms Muehlinghaus raised her objections with my non-offensive
posture only, without making a condition to imitate the Indian researchers.
I was not ready to even hear that I was supposed to behave and act like an Indian. I cannot
say precisely what sort of the ‘expected’ behavior or act that might be; however, if I reverse
the posture constructed by Ms Muehlinghaus, I can imagine an Indian sitting with straight
arms and legs but with a bend in his back. Obviously, with a stooped posture, one cannot
have a chin-up position for the head. Instead, the head falls and neck bends – the humble.
I abhor this posture, even if it were made a condition to my future and permission to carry
on research. I could not imitate an Indian at all.
While Ms Muehlinghaus was speaking out her mind, a new reality of life revealed upon me:
behave like the Indians and be submissive. Perhaps, I found the reason of assimilation of
the Indians in other cultures and societies in the world. They do not annoy the West yet try
to catch up with their objectives. I was a failure.
2) Smouldering nationalism
As a Pakistani, I always I felt pride in my nationality. While my stay in London, I used to visit
the British library for study purposes. The first time I saw huge posters of Jawaharlal Nehru
and Mohandas Gandhi hanging near one of its entry gates, I felt sorry for Mohammad Ali
Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. I asked the librarian staff at the front desk, why
discrimination with our leader, Jinnah? They replied that Jinnah had refused to come to
terms with the British. Nevertheless, the gift of Mohammad Ali Jinnah to the Pakistanis is not
only an independent country but also psychological independence – a reason of keeping
our heads in a chin-up position. Jinnah saved us from the subordination of both the Hindus
and the British. He bestowed pride upon us. No one can snatch this pride and sovereignty.
The buck of “This is who we are” unleashed by Ms Bimba Moewes on 11.11.02 infested
many areas of the German system that I came across later on. I mention each of them here
one by one.
Had she said, “This is who I am,” the meaning could have been different. However, by using
the word “we” (and with no clarification even by the other group-fellows and the indifference
of the group leader) got an explicit approval and acknowledgement.
1) The institute and the buck
I got convinced that the group somehow disliked me, a fait accompli. This was how my
interest shifted to finding an experience certificate for the three successive successful
experiments that I performed by using two strategies on the assigned DFG-project to
proceed with the PhD research in some other institute of the world without wasting more
time. Hence, on 12.11.02, I submitted an application to the institute to that effect. In the
application, I particularly mentioned that I was directed verbally to leave the institute
suddenly and without any plausible reasons. Interestingly, the timing and mode of
disengagement foreboded something wrong at the bottom. However, owing to the lack of
proof, I could not make a claim.
In response to my application dated 12.11.02, I received a certificate dated 21.11.02. I was
dissatisfied, as it lacked contents as well as the experimental strategies used. Moreover,
the steps taken to perform one such experiment was declared “experiments”. I raised
objections on the same through submitting another application dated 25.11.02 and also
requested to correct spelling of “diphteria” to “diphtheria” as well as to comment on the two
strategies that I had mentioned.
In the second certificate dated 26.11.02 issued by institute, the pointed out mistakes were
rectified. The success of experiments was acknowledged but with using only one strategy
by mentioning: “The preliminary results suggest that the conjugate is able to eliminate CD
19+ B cells.” In my next application dated 27.11.02, I requested again to comment on the
second strategy, as both of them produced the same results. Moreover, I requested to
issue authorized copies of the results of the experiments. In its response, the authorized
copies were issued along with a third certificate dated 29.11.02. However, in this certificate,
the institute went back from its previous words and wrote: “Although the performance of the
experiments should be improved, one may come to the conclusion that both strategies used
to deplete B cells may have worked.”
Everyone in the scientific research field knows that the word “may” cannot be used in one
sentence for more than once. Moreover, the question was: why discrimination for one
strategy? Why somersault of words? Why misspelling of technical words? Was the institute
issuing a certificate first ever time in its history? Something fishy, may be, I replied to myself.
Finally, I reached the bottom of the issue and got the fish: I was assigned the DFG-project
to work on the “Therapy of SLE”, while I was given three certificates declaring that I worked
on the “Pathology of SLE”. What a revelation, what a mistake!
The institute wanted to credit itself and deprive me of my scientific right. This was both
surprising and annoying.
2) The secretary and the buck
In order to give benefit of the doubt to the institute, I submitted an application dated
11.12.02 to ask the institute to rectify that particular mistake. I also requested the institute
to provide me the rules governing scientific conduct and misconduct existing in the institute;
the reason for not allowing me to announce the results; and the reason for not serving on
me a prior written notice of ending the contract, as per the rules laid down in the contract so
signed. Being a signatory to the contract, both of us (the institute and me) fell under the
same rules and regulations.
The secretary, Ms Christine Raulfs, was reluctant to accept my application dated 11.12.02
even to rectify the ‘mistake’, which was affecting my future research. On my insistence to
put her kind signature or initials on my copy of the application, as she used to do before,
she (a right-handed) used her left hand to pick up a pen and drew a zigzag line. She
declared explicitly the scribbles her signature (or initial). Perhaps, she considered it below
her to affix her proper initial or signature to my copy of the application as an
acknowledgement of receipt. Hitherto, I have not found any reply to that application.
In the second half of December 2002, the institute dropped two post-dated notices dated
21.11.02 and 16.12.02 respectively at my flat (Warthe str. 29, 12051 Berlin), one after the
3) The German Press and the buck
Through a letter dated 07.02.03, I informed various local newspapers about the attitude
and behavior of the people that I came across in the institute in Berlin.
In its response, in mid-February 2003, I was contacted by Ms Silvia Meixner (meixner@welt.
de), a representative of the English section of the daily, Berliner Morgen Post/Die Welt.
Through a telephonic conversation in English, she expressed her intention to publish a
story to that effect. During conversation, she said: “Your way is contrary to your leaders.” I
enquired: What do you mean? She replied: “They do not raise their heads in front of us.”
Infuriatingly, I said: Look, Pakistan is a poor country. Representatives and leaders from
Pakistan have to come here to get settled the loan problems (as they are constrained to do
so because of Pakistan’s ever changing geo-political surroundings that bear a direct impact
on its domestic affairs). I further said: When you deal with individual Pakistani, especially
the educated ones, you will find a different Pakistani. She responded: “Why do you not,
then try Pakistani Press to raise your voice”? I said: Well, I have to try you first because I
am in your country. She said: “Do you think Pakistani Press has courage to raise your voice
on the basis of human rights?” I replied: I will ask it. In the end, she said: “I can help you if
you require.” I replied: Thank you Madam, I don’t now require your help. It was my duty to
inform you about your own system. I was not begging for my right: I was demanding it.
Ms Fatina Keilani of the daily Tagesspiegel (Fatina.firstname.lastname@example.org) then
contacted me. On her invitation, I visited her office in early March 2003 at Potsdamer Platz.
Being a lawyer as well, she understood my point of view. At least, she acknowledged that
my scientific right was being denied. A lady photographer with her repeatedly used words,
“Smile”, “Smile”, “Smile” followed by clicks… My quota of smile got exhausted owing to over-
smiling. Ms Fatina Keilani assured me to wait for a few days. Afterwards, when I contacted
her on telephone, she replied: “You know we have to publish four papers a day. The war in
Iraq has started. So we cannot find time to write for you. Kindly keep me reminding.” I said
goodbye to her. Why should I remind you?
I wrote my point of view as well as reaction of the German Press in my letter to editor of
DAWN, Karachi. The letter got published on 13.06.03 under the caption “A Pakistani’s
plight in Germany,” the copies of which were sent to both Ms Silvia Meixner and Ms Fatina
Keilani for their record and information.
4) The lawyer and the buck
In late 2002, I had hired the services of a lawyer Mr. Eberhardt (Nürnberger str. 21, 10789
Berlin) to file my case in the court of law. He did that. He could speak English. He said that
he would draw his fee from the government’s exchequer. The first date of hearing was set
on 14.01.03 for my case 54 Ca 35112/02. Proceedings were in the German language only.
At the end of the first hearing, outside the court, when he said, “You know we are short of
time to prove our point. We have only five months to do so,” I became suspicious of his
role. Did he think I was a fool? Why delay in the decision? How would I survive in Berlin?
Why did he say that the protracted five months period was a short time?
Moreover, while accepting the second date of hearing for 20.06.03, he kept me in the dark
during the court proceedings. Whenever I asked (in English) what was the situation? He
replied in English that the things were going in our favour.
When I came to know of the second date of hearing when we came out of the courtroom, I
asked him to let me go to speak to the court’s officials to provide me an earlier date of
hearing. The lawyer stopped me by saying that the next case’s hearing had been started
and that he would request the court for an earlier date of hearing and the same would be
granted. However, later on I came to know that the change of date had never happened
before. It meant that the lawyer knew it but he did not mention it to me.
I got annoyed. In response, the lawyer stopped conversing with me in the English language
and switched over to the German language whenever I tried to contact him on telephone.
The lawyer was also facing problems to get my documents translated into the German
language from the English language, which was a quite costly formula especially when I was
without any source of income. As per visa conditions (stamped on my passport), I could not
do work at all other than at the same institute. I informed the lawyer that I had lost faith in
him and that then onward I would contest my case myself. I also disagreed with him the way
he presented my case.
Through a letter, I also informed the court of my problem, i.e. five months waiting; no source
of income; an overseas researcher but no research; and waste of time, etc., but it fell on its
deaf ear. The court never bothered to send me even a response letter for an earlier date of
5) The Chancellor’s office and the buck
Thanks to my uncle, Mr Kamal-ud Din living in Canada who supported me financially in my
effort for finding my scientific right. I tried to bring into the notice of the Chancellor’s office
and found a reply: “The case in the court: we cannot affect it.” I replied: I never requested
you to affect or influence the court or my case. I actually sent a letter to you to register my
complaint towards the government’s policies and my consequent plight (My last letter dated
28.03.03 was received in the Chancellor’s office at Willy-Brandt-str. 1, 10557 Berlin on
01.04.03, under subject: Answers of the unanswered questions). I found no answer for that
In the beginning of 2003, through an estate agent, I became able to find a new flat at
Zobeltitz str. 24, 13403 Berlin. Hüge was the name of the woman, who was the caretaker of
the building having all flats. She was huge as per her name, and this was her identifiable
feature, as the estate agent told me. The rent was almost the same as that of the previous
flat which was mostly wooden given to screech and squawk on walking. This flat was made
of concrete offering better ambience for study and stay.
The nearest U-Bahn (underground station) was Kurt-Schumacher-Platz. To pay the monthly
rent (300 Euros) of the flat, I had to rely on the financial help of my uncle, Kamal-ud Din
residing in Toronto, Canada. The owner of this flat (who was a retired bus driver) did not
know that I had been disengaged from the institute. He came to know about this point in mid-
2003, but he decided not to press for my exclusion from the flat. The actual owner of the
flat was his wife whereas he was just a rent collector. He permitted me to stay and contest
my case in the court. I assured him of the timely supply of the rent sent to him through the
bank on the 2nd day of every month. I am thankful to him for extending to me such an act of
6) The ticket-checkers and the buck
New characters appeared on the horizon. These were two ticket-checkers (one male and
one female) bearing numbers 87100 and 87101 challaned my ticket number 01650 0965 at
Rathaus-Neükollen U-Bahn (U7) on 12.01.03, during an underground railway journey.
When I was requested to get off the U-Bahn (underground railway), I was asked: Where are
you from? I replied: Pakistan. One ticket checker exclaimed with raised eyebrows and
shining eyes: “Oh! From Pakistan.” The blue light from his eyes slapped me in the face.
He raised his voice: Show me your passport! I showed him the passport and gave its
number. I enquired: Kindly prove that you are right and I am wrong, as there was in my
possession a monthly ticket amounting to Euro 56 given by a machine on 21.12.02 for the
AB zone. He asserted that the ticket had expired on 31.12.02, as it was a fixed monthly
ticket and not a flexible monthly ticket (permitting journey from the date of issuance to the
end of thirty days).
He was basically saying: The flexible monthly ticket is also of the same price of Euro 56, but
it lasts for one month contrary to the fixed monthly ticket that ends with the end of the
month in which it is bought. (This point I came to know later.)
I asked: Why did the machine issue a ticket (the fixed monthly ticket) for one week for the
fare of one month? Is there any such explanation or instruction anywhere? He had no
I wrote a letter dated 15.01.03 to their higher ups (BVG, 10783 Berlin-Schöneberg) and
explained my point. Within days, the challan was cancelled. The reason declared was my
fairness. Nevertheless, the insult of being taken off the train in front of all passengers kept
rankling me for the rest of my stay in Berlin.
I was not perplexed about being challaned but about the argument initiated from the word
Pakistan. I think that was why I reproved both of the ticket checkers then and there on the
pretext that your machine robbed me. They had to listen to, as they had no answer. In the
conversation, that took place in English, they admitted that owing to similar acts of the ticket
checkers, foreign students confronted with them on the platform before. They also told me
that the number of foreign students had significantly reduced than it was two years ago. I
cursed German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who invited South Asians to Germany without
putting in place the mechanism of their smooth settlement. Schröder had visited India in
October 2001 and announced to open Germany for foreign high skilled workers with a
special focus on information technology experts. His announcements in India had grabbed
my attention and I diverted my attention to doing research in Germany. In 2002, the Indians
reached Germany but in the same year, owing to hostile local environment most of them
forsook Germany and flew to the United States for a better future. While they were leaving
Germany, I landed in Berlin, not knowing the reason for their flight from Germany.
7) The court and the buck
My illegal dismissal and the denial of a correct certificate were the two main reasons that
compelled me to knock at the doors of the Court Arbeitsgericht, Magdeburger Platz 1,
10785 Berlin through a lawyer Mr Eberhardt (as mentioned above). Having disagreed with
the lawyer in the wake of a disagreement after the first date of hearing on 14.01.03, I
decided to contest my own case, as I had lost faith in him. The same was permitted by the
honourable judge (Mr Spatz) verbally just a one week before the second date of hearing on
To appear before the court and contest my own case was a unique and revealing
experience. Having failed to get an earlier date of hearing, I appeared in the court as a
complainant-cum-lawyer. I was provided the services of an interpreter (Dolmetscherin)
namely Ms Frau Christholde Abdelwahed, to interpret from English to the German language
and vice versa.
My core argument was this: If the honourable court accepts that the way the contract in
question was terminated by the institute, DRFZ, (i.e. transgressing the given 15 days’ time-
period limit by not following the protocol of the delivery of a legal notice of termination of
such contract which deprives me of my scientific right of the announcement of the results of
the experiments performed at the platform of the institute under the assigned DFG-project)
was legal, it means the honourable court is basically allowing the institute to continue with
the practice of formally inviting researchers and students from the developing countries like
Pakistan; exploit them of their knowledge and skills taking hide of an extended probationary
period; and then throw them away just before they could get any scientific recognition.
Does the honourable court allow the institute to exploit and go ahead with the same
The honourable judge responded: The Federal laws are based on exploitation. I repeated
the aforementioned argument at the end of argumentation, and the honourable judge gave
the same reply (I submitted a letter in the court on 23.06.03 to express my concern and
implications of the afore-quoted sentences for other Pakistanis).
The honourable judge also said: “You were delivered notices of termination of the service
[at your flat]. Hence, the contract had ended. It was not important for the institute to tell you
the reason of the termination of the contract, as it was written in the contract.”
My reply remained quite simple: Either party (employee or employer) that wants to
terminate the contract will inform in writing of such intention to the other party. The contract
will be terminated after fifteen (15) days of due service (delivery) of that (written) notice of
termination, within probationary period. The contract, which is a working contract, also
determines the work place and its location/address.
That is, the contract is saying two things: First, no signatory party can terminate the
contract verbally and abruptly; and second, no signatory party can declare the termination
of the contract by sending the notice of termination to other than the institute, DRFZ, which
was the declared working place.
My stance was and is this: A written notice of the termination of the contract should have
been served (delivered) on me while my working on the project and in the institute to be
effective 15 days after its service/delivery, as the mode of delivery of a legal notice is a pre-
requisite to its effectiveness. Further, I could not be stopped from entering the institute’s
premises nor could I be stopped from working further for fifteen days on the research
project, as per the contract, whether I announced the results or not.
In principle, as the contract was bearing the address of the work place (DRFZ), the institute
could not send me the notice at my residence and that after stopping me from entering the
institute. The institute should have delivered the notice of termination of the contract inside
the institute and should have permitted me to work for another fifteen (15 days) to meet the
needs of the contract.
The institute knew that by permitting my entry into the institute and letting me work for
another fifteen (15) days meant that I would be announcing the results of my experiments
and hence I would be entitled to a scientific credit. This was why I was kept away from the
institute for those fifteen (15) days to let that working period lapse.
The point is simple, if a legal notice is not duly served, it cannot be considered effective.
Against this backdrop, verbal and abrupt directions given by the group leader to me to
leave both the project and the institute were contrary to the conditions of the contract
written in the German language. Even if the allegation of arrogance were the immediate
reason, to allow me to work further for another fifteen (15) days was a legal requirement
before the termination of the contract. The same was and is my legal right, which is both
undeniable and irrefutable. It was the duty of the party (institute) which was terminating the
contract to fulfill all legal requirements of the contract for termination, whether the other
party (me) asked for it or not.
It is interesting to mention that, for the termination of the contract, the institute managed to
throw two post-dated notices dated 21.11.02 and 16.12.02 respectively at my flat (Warthe
str. 29, 12051 Berlin) in December 2002, one after the other like darts on a dart-board so
that if not the first, the second would anchor there. This is not the way the law works.
The contract did not authorize the institute two things: First, the contract did not permit the
institute to stop me from working on the project in the institute pre-maturely before the
expiry of the fifteen (15) mandatory days. Second, the contract did not allow the institute to
prevent me from entering the institute, DRFZ. Hence, both these notices were in violation of
the contract itself.
Unfortunately, however, the court declared them valid and effective. To reiterate, my stance
was and is this: Both these notices should have been served on me in the institute while I
was working on the project, as the contract determined the place of work, i.e. the institute,
and not my residential flat. To elaborate, the institute could send the notices to my flat only
if I made myself absent from the institute. This was not the case. I was not permitted to
enter the institute.
After receiving any one of the notices in the institute while working on the research project, I
could have got the due fifteen (15) days to accomplish my scientific activity which was
permissible as per the contract. During this period, I could have announced the results of
the experiments that I performed during my working tenure at the institute, DRFZ. Hence,
those notices were ineffective and were in a sheer violation of the contract. However, the
court did not understand this simple point which I also submitted in writing (both in English
and German) on 20.06.03 (second date of hearing).
Here stands a difference between a marriage contract and a working contract. In a
marriage contract, a notice of divorce is sent to one’s home address first for service and
the work place later, whereas in a working contract, a notice of the termination of
service/contract is sent to one’s work place first and home address later.
No notice was served on me while my working on the project in the institute both before
11.11.02 (my last working day) and after it, when I visited the institute after getting prior
appointment from Ms Christine Raulfs (the secretary) to enter into the institute either to
submit an application or to receive a certificate from the Director’s office situated on the
ground floor. (The laboratory where I worked was on the second floor and reaching there
required a magnetic pass to enter the floor.)
In short, as per the mode of issuance and mode of delivery, both the notices were invalid
and illegal. The same points indicated the violation of the contract by the institute and the
denial of my scientific right to work for another fifteen (15) days to complete the scientific
activity that I carried out under the contract.
If someone did not know this point or refused to admit this point, it was not my fault.
The honourable judge also said: “You have been paid by the institute for the work you
performed, so the contract could be ended any time and you cannot claim your research
activity to be recognized.”
The judge was saying that I was paid for the scientific work performed and I was not entitled
to claim any scientific credit.
I replied: “I am not a technician. If the payment is important, why does the institute not
deliver PhD degrees to the technicians working there and why to hire researchers?” I
further said: “It is not the hand but the head that rules the world.” I said: “The claim of my
scientific recognition cannot be denied by paying me monthly salary by the institute.” The
paid amount for two months was a stipend (BAT II/2) for a PhD student and not a price of
my scientific research and its attached recognition.
I also asked the court: What should I do with the copies of the results, which have been
issued by the institute for me? These results are for the field of “Therapy” and not for
“Pathology”, while the same institute issued three experience certificates mentioning my
field as “Pathology” and not the “Therapy” of SLE. As per the contract, I had been working
on the “Therapy of SLE”. Why did the institute mention “Pathology”? To this question, the
court remained silent and it did not address this question. I also pleaded that the incorrect
certificates issued were the corroborative evidences for the violation of the contract
committed by the institute, DRFZ.
I also said: Under no law (whether German law or any other) can the institute change the
direction of my future research by replacing the word “Therapy” with “Pathology”. To work
further for fifteen (15) days on the project is my scientific right, besides announcing the
results in the institute. This scientific right of mine cannot be compromised. I also said that
the institute used the German language to deceive me: the institute translated into English
the meaning of Therapy as Pathology. The honourable judge, however, said that this was
not his concern.
I also submitted written arguments mentioning the aforementioned points, spoken through
the interpreter, with the court the same day (20.06.03) for the record of the court.
During the proceedings, I requested the court to provide an earlier decision. However, after
the lapse of one and a half months, on 01.08.03, I wrote a letter to the court to declare its
decision, as I wanted to go back to Pakistan. I also wrote that I would announce the results
of the experiments by holding a press conference in Islamabad. On 05.08.03, I received the
decision with an interesting comment: “It is generally not recognizable that the institute
[respondent] gives a right to the complainant [me] to publish the single research results
from its platform.” The rest of the judgement was the same as the judge was speaking in
the court. The court’s orders endorsed the decision of the institute to terminate the contract
and deprived me of my right to work for further fifteen (15) days in the institute, DRFZ.
It was not mentioned whether it was a personal opinion of the honourable judge or he was
referring to any clause of the contract or any section of the German law. In fact, this
comment could have been a verdict of a publisher of a research journal to allow a
researcher (me) to publish his results or not. The judge was not entitled to pass such a
judgment. Hence, on 06.08.03, I submitted my response letter to the court indicating
dissatisfaction to the long-awaited delivered decision.
The court was ignorant of two facts: first, in dispensation of justice, promptness is
complementary to impartiality; second, the mode of the delivery of a legal notice is a pre-
requisite to its effectiveness. The court’s ignorance wasted my time.
On 14.08.03, at my flat (Zobeltitz str, 24, 13403 Berlin), I received a letter/notice written in
the German language sent by the institute, DRFZ, through a courier (per boten) asking me
to refrain from announcing the results, because these were the property of the institute. In
the letter/notice, the German language was used despite the fact that the institute knew
that I did not know the language.
It was a sheer display of German bigotry on the part of the institute aspiring to become
international. Initially, the institute knowingly used the German language to produce the
contract, which the institute violated later on. Then the institute deliberately mistranslated
the title of the project written in the German language and produced a different version in
English not acceptable to me. Now, the institute is serving upon me a notice again in the
German language. This is how the institute behaved with an international researcher –
even if I don’t use the words, Pakistani – with impunity. Whereas I revered the German
language, the institute abused the German language to seek benefits. This act of the
institute is perhaps unprecedented in the world. I never heard of such a blatant and
despicable act, which could be committed by the Germans only. Nevertheless, the
letter/notice created an interesting situation: on the one hand the institute was not letting
me to fulfill the needs of the contract by working further for fifteen days on the research
project whereas, on the other hand, the institute was prohibiting me from announcing the
results on any other platform.
I decided to leave Berlin, as I could not sustain expenditures of my living and contesting the
case further through challenging the court’s verdict.
8) The DFG and the buck
I had informed the DFG (German Research Council; Kennedyallee 40, 53175 Bonn) of the
situation. In its last letter dated 22.08.03 vide number I-PRO-2-2910-Rashid, the Justitiar Mr
Christian Amzar wrote to me: “According to German law, results of work generated in the
course of an employment generally belong to the employer.”
The DFG could not answer: who did generate the results? Did these happen
spontaneously, as per German law? If the results belong to the institute (employer), what
belongs to the result-generator (employee)? By the way, I was a PhD student and not an
employee. Through my letter dated 23.08.03, before coming to Pakistan, I asked these
question to the DFG. Hitherto, I have received no response.
9) The Embassy of Germany and the buck
I came back to Pakistan in early September 2003, completing my one year ordeal in Berlin.
In response to my argumentation in the court, Mr Spatz (the honourable judge) had said
several times: “It should have been known to you while you were in Pakistan.” That is why I
consider the Embassy of Germany, Islamabad, responsible for the trouble I faced in
My stance (or point of view) has already been published in various newspapers in Pakistan
especially in the letter to editor in The Frontier Post (Peshawar) dated 28.06.03
(Exploitative law); 06.07.03 (A simple point); 10.07.03 (Useless certificates); and 15.07.03
(Misuse of language).
On 14.09.03 at 4pm, at Rawalpindi Press Club, I held a Press Conference on the topic,
“Potential of Bi-specific antibodies in the therapy of the autoimmune diseases which are
associated with pathogenic autoantibodies, like Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.” I also
announced the results, the drawn conclusion and their implications on the future research.
In a hand out (Press Release), I also mentioned the basic principle of the depletion of
plasma cells (i.e. peripheral engagement of plasma cells), which was advised by my teacher
Dr Jamal Nasir, Clinical Pathologist, CITI Lab, Rawalpindi. On 15.09.03, I also sent a copy of
the Press Release to the Embassy of Germany, Islamabad, in spite of the fact that
Ambassador of Germany Dr Christoph Brümmer did not respond to my formal invitation to
attend the Press Conference.
The spirit of Pakistan
On 13.06.03, in its letter to editor section, DAWN published my letter under caption “A
Pakistani’s plight in Germany.” On 12.07.03, I found a letter sent by some Ismail A. Habib
(Habib Arkady Ltd., 3rd Floor, Al-Rehman building, I. I. Chundrigar road, Karachi-74200,
Pakistan). Habib’s letter reached my postal address (Zobeltitz str. 24, 13403 Berlin). He
wanted to get my bank account details to send me money as much as I required, at his
earliest. He was worried about my distress and wanted to relieve it. On the given telephone
number, I made a phone call to Karachi and thanked him for his concern by saying that I
was being monetarily helped by my uncle to survive in Berlin, especially the rent which was
amounting to 300 Euros a month for a studio flat. I remained grateful to him for his concern.
June 2003 was the month of hearing. I had to meet the expenditures for translating my
documents and arguments from English to German and for the hourly payment in advance
for the hired interpreter in the court. The total cost was around 500 Euros.
On 18.06.03, I ran out of money. The last thing I wanted to do was to get print outs of the
written arguments that I had prepared to speak out. I left with Pakistani currency only. I took
a round of money exchangers but they refused to accept the currency for conversion. They
had no system to recognize Pakistani rupees. I asked one or two Pakistani shopkeepers
around to accept Pakistani rupees which they could be using on their journey to Pakistan
and give me equivalent in Euros. An owner of a garment shop (Hamerra Textilien, Müller
str. 22, 13353 Berlin) agreed to my offer. He gave me 10 Euros but refused to get back any
Pakistani rupees. He said he had helped me. These 10 Euros I used to get print out, and
pay for my one way journey to the court to contest my case at Magdeburger Platz 1, 10785
Berlin in an effort to secure my scientific right.
I appreciate the altruistic concerns of such Pakistanis.
During my stay in Berlin, I gathered some observations which I would like to share with the
1) Generosity and curiosity
Berlin will remember me as a generous person. I do not know how teenage girls used to
spot me in the streets, along footpaths, at U-Bahn (sub-way stations) etc. Do you have 20
pence? I want to make a phone call; I am just short of it; I want to buy cigarette; I want to
buy a ticket, and so on. To those requests made mostly in the German language, I always
put strain on my ever-depleting savings and ever-improving language skills. “Kein Problem”
(no problem) remained my reply with benevolence. I am happy that somehow I gave
something to the Berliners. During my stay, I also remained curious to find a new street or
road for my on-foot journey. I can claim that I travelled Berlin’s zone A and B on foot. My
companion remained chocolate. The reason was this: bet it a Penny Market, Aldi, Plus or
Karstadt departmental stores, I found one item – chocolate – cheap enough to provide me
2) Station and vocation
Mr Schumacher is a famous Formula-1 car driver and a world champion who wins car races
for Germany. However, during my stay in Berlin near a subway station (U-Bahn) Kurt-
Schumacher Platz, I remained more impressed by German’s technical skill because of which
they manufacture cars, tools, instruments, machinery, furniture, polishes, paints, medicine,
etc. They are today an economic power of Europe with a strong currency, Euro. Their
prowess hinges on their balanced emphasis on vocational institutes, which provide them a
skilled manpower – a backbone of their development in science and technology.
3) Exit and quit
One thing I repent. I did not know the German language. However, I could understand the
word “ausgang” meaning exit. I think I followed it firmly because it was not “quit”. One thing I
wish, if the language were known to me, I could have enjoyed my stay in Berlin in a better
way. What I suggest to the Germans: relax faces; welcome foreigners; be open to the
outside world; accept difference of opinion; and give my right back to me.
4) Bye and Berlin
Bye (“Choor”) to the readers and Berlin till my full-fledge book on the same topic: A memoir
of my stay in Berlin.