The whole thing is surrounded by secrecy. It lacks transparency. President Arif Alvi promulgated an ordinance on Oct 20 whereby a new organisation named the Pakistan Medical Commission will replace the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC). What makes people suspicious about the ordinance is the hurry with which it was promulgated on the weekly day off. It has come in the midst of the ongoing strike of doctors and paramedics in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwah and doctors’ strike in Punjab. In K-P, doctors have been on strike for nearly a month in protest against a proposed law called the Regional and District Health Authorities Act 2019. Doctors in Punjab too have certain grievances which they want the government to rectify. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza has said the ordinance is the need of the hour. “The world has progressed but we are still following decades of old methods for our medical education. We need to liberalise our medical education…,” he said. Such pronouncements have failed to clear the fog.
The ordinance has caused disquiet among the medical fraternity. The Secretary General of the Pakistan Medical Association, Dr Qaisar Sajjad, has described the ordinance as an undemocratic” step by a democratic government. “The government should have tabled a bill in parliament to enable all stakeholders to give their input. If it was necessary to promulgate the ordinance, the government should have abolished the 1962 PMDC Ordinance “as the new ordinance is also in violation of the 1962 ordinance, which states that the council should be established through the elected representatives of the medical fraternity,” he said.
Since the ordinance has come at a time when the “Azadi March” planned by the opposition is close at hand, it shows all is not well with the government. The takeover of the PMDC building by the ministry of health and the police has added to the mystery. The government should come clean on the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2019.