Civil society, activists condemn NAB’s NICVD raid

Call for a halt to federal interference in provincial govt’s affairs


Our Correspondent November 03, 2020

Questions were raised on Monday over a recent raid by the anti-graft watchdog at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), as representatives of civil society organisations, trade unions and other bodies like the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) voiced their concerns at a press conference.

They noted that the NICVD was among the best public sector facilities in the country, providing free cardiac care to people round the clock. "Targeting such a health facility is beyond comprehension and deserves strong condemnation," they maintained.

The NICVD did receive funds from the provincial government but it is an autonomous body fully independent in its functioning, they claimed, adding that no formal corruption charges have ever been proven against the facility.

The speakers condemned the way the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) raided the facility, pointing out that its action caused services to be halted and panic among patients, visitors and staff. NAB is liable to be sued for damages, they remarked.

Furthermore, they said that according to the NICVD management, NAB did not give any prior information before the raid and the hospital had provided the records sought by the bureau.

The speakers further raised concerns over the interference of federal institutions in provincial matters citing the islands controversy and the alleged abduction of the Sindh IGP as examples. “It is on record that the Centre wants to take control of the hospital,” they noted, adding that this interference was unconstitutional and against the spirit of provincial autonomy given in the 18th Amendment.

Health is a basic right and responsibility of the state to provide this service, they noted. "However, a large majority of people are deprived of this right and when institutions such as NICVD have tried to provide such services, it is being targeted and maligned and harassed."

The speakers maintained they were not against transparency and accountability and would welcome efforts to establish a credible mechanism for it. "However, NAB has lost credibility and legitimacy and its action against NICVD is one such example of abuse of powers."

The speakers, including Karamat Ali of PILER, Dr Tipu Sultan of PMA, Asad Iqbal Butt of the HRCP, Habibuddin Junaidi of the Peoples Labour Bureau, Mehnaz Rehman of Aurat Foundation and others, demanded an apology from the bureau for the raid and harassment of staff, an inquiry against NAB officials misusing their authority, and for the Centre to stop interfering in the province’s affairs. Besides, the Centre must clarify whether it wants to take control of NICVD and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, they added.

Separately, Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said on Monday that the NAB raid at NICVD was reprehensible. In the past five years, over 7.5 million patients have been treated at the facility, not just from Sindh but from across the country, he said, adding that it was unfortunate that welfare institutions were also on the radar of the ruling party's campaign against opposition leaders.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2020.

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