It’s bad for public representatives to be ignorant about public issues but its worse when they must say something about the subject.
This happened to Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly Speaker Wazir Baig recently when he told grieving relatives of an accident, in which 10 people had died mainly due to absence of doctors at Tehsil Headquarters Hospital Gulmit, that the government had appointed a doctor at the hospital and was paying her Rs100,000 to serve there.
Dr Khadija Bano, the doctor he was talking about, gave him the lie and told him that she was not getting a penny from the government but was working voluntarily at the hospital on behalf of her employer, the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHSP). All the speaker could say in his defence was that he would discuss the matter with the director health.
The doctor explained that she was appointed as a medical officer at the hospital in 2010 but she resigned when the health department could not issue the notification of her appointment or pay her salary for six months.
The speaker, ultimately, apologized to the doctor and promised an inquiry into the matter.
When the speaker was later asked what action he will take against the officials who gave him false information, he vehemently said that he will order an inquiry and if the officials were found drawing money in the name of the doctor they will be brought to task.
“I worked with the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Assistance-funded Mother and Newborn Child Health (MNCH) project till June 2012,” said Dr Bano. She said that on the request of the district health authorities she has been performing duty at the THQ hospital for three days a week since August last year, for which she is not being paid by the govt.
When the Director Health Dr Ghulam Ali was contacted, he confirmed that the government was not paying salary to Dr Bano. He said that we had requested her to perform duty at the THQ hospital voluntarily and coordinate vaccination. “We are striving to meet the growing demand for heath care through public-private partnerships,” he added.
Hunza-Nagar District Health Officer Dr Sher Hafiz denied the speaker’s claim. “Neither I had given any briefing to the speaker nor claimed of paying any salary to Dr Bano,” he said.
Local people and political activists demanded of the G-B government to initiate an inquiry into the matter and take action against the health officials for putting the speaker in embarrassment by giving him false information.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2012.