ISLAMABAD: The upper house of Parliament passed the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University (PIMS) Bill on Friday amid protests by some senators.
The bill – moved by Education and Training Minister Nazar Mohammad Gondal – was cleared by the National Assembly last month, where it also faced a similar reaction from opposition lawmakers.
The house proceedings were initially interrupted when independent Senator Mohsin Leghari pointed to the lack of quorum – the minimum number of members required to conduct business. On that note, Chairman Nayyar Bokhari adjourned proceedings for 15 minutes. However, after the interval, the chair started the voting process, and passed the bill anyway.
Senator Leghari and other opposition senators staged walkout in protest. Bokhari adjourned the house till Monday.
Under the legislation of this bill, the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) has been upgraded to a medical university, empowered to confer degrees, diplomas and other academic distinctions. All medical colleges and health institutions located within Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) will be affiliated with the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University (SZABMU).
Furthermore, the faculty of medicine at the Quaid-e-Azam University will be transferred to SZABMU, and all students moved within six months. Essentially, the Quaid-e-Azam University will cease to exist. Lawmakers expressed deep reservations over the bill.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Raja Zafarul Haq said that while it is beneficial to establish new institutions in the country, it must be ensured beforehand that all requirements are fulfilled. Permission from the Higher Education Commission is essential. “There are many contradictions in this legislation. For instance, there is no guarantee about the protection of PIMS employees,” he said.
Muttahida Quami Movement Senator Tahir Mashadi raised objections over the merging of medicine faculties at Quaid-e-Azam University and PIMS, and the subsequent renaming of the institution. “We respect Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, but we will not allow the name of Quaid-e-Azam to be changed,” he said.
Similarly, Pakistan Muslim League–Functional Senator Muzzafar Hussain Shah expressed concern over the way the government makes important decisions. He said that hastily establishing new institutions, without doing thorough homework, will result in a rapidly deteriorating standard of education.
In the same vein, Senator Mushahid Hussain of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid called on the government to clarify its position over the name of the university and the appointment of its vice chancellor.
Yet, despite all the commotion, Gondal pointed out that the bill had already passed amid representation from all parties. Therefore, raising objections had no justification any longer.
Power theft, corruption addressed
The minister of state for water and power, Tasneem Qureshi, told the Senate that a powerful mafia has deprived the national exchequer of Rs90 billion by stealing electricity.
This statement was made in response to a written request put forth by PML-Q Senator Begum Najma Hameed, in which she enquired about power theft.
The lawmakers present were informed by the ministry that Pakistan Electric Power Company’s various subsidiaries have lost billions of rupees in the past five years, on account of theft and line losses.
In the last sitting, Pakistan People Party Senator Sughra Imam had sought details about crooked officials at Pepco.
Consequently, the ministry of water and power presented documents, revealing that approximately 1,300 corrupt officials continue to serve at Pepco’s various subsidiaries, despite recommendations from investigators that their services be suspended until proven innocent.
The documents revealed that the officials under question, involved in fraud, embezzlement, and misuse of authority, have cost Pepco’s subsidiaries Rs500 billion over the past four years.
The files also exposed the names of all officials who face corruption charges and stated that inquiries against them are still underway.