A committee formed to decide the issue of quota for overseas Pakistanis in medical and dental colleges has recommended that they be allowed to apply for admission on 161 seats reserved for foreign students.
A summary has been sent by the Health Department in this regard to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for approval.
The King Edward Medical University (KEMU) vice chancellor, the University of Health Sciences (UHS) vice chancellor, the Health secretary, the Finance secretary, MPAs Rana Liaquat and Dr Nadia Aziz were members of the committee. Adviser to Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique was its chairman.
“The committee has recommended that overseas Pakistanis should be allowed to apply for admission on the 161 seats reserved for foreign students. Eighty-five of these are regular fee seats, while 76 are self-finance seats,” a member of the committee told The Express Tribune.
Speaking about the eligibility criteria, he said, “The parents of the applicants should be registered with the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation. They should have a work permit from the country where they are currently residing. The students should have lived in that country for at least five years and should not have stayed in Pakistan for more than six months during that period. They should have passed 12th grade from the country where their parents are residing. The parents of the applicants must be domiciled in a district of the Punjab and should get a certificate from the relevant Pakistani embassy.”
“Rather than reserving a few seats for overseas Pakistanis, we have placed them on equal footing with foreign applicants,” he said.
“The policy is expected to be approved by the CM before the admission process starts this year,” the member said.
Punjab has been the only province that did not have reserved seats for overseas Pakistanis. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh have already allocated special seats for students whose parents are abroad.
According to Health Department record, public sector medical colleges in the Punjab have reserved 161 seats (144 for MBBS and 17 for BDS) for foreign students. However, none of these seats are reserved for overseas Pakistanis.
“There are 3.7 million overseas Pakistanis living mostly in the Gulf countries, including 1.6 million in Saudi Arabia, 1.2 million in the United Arab Emirates, 0.2 million in Oman and 0.15 million in Kuwait. Some people argue that it is discriminatory to reserve seats for foreigners but not overseas Pakistanis,” a Health Department official said.
Currently, there are two categories of seats for foreign students in public-sector medical colleges in the Punjab. Some 86 students are registered in various medical colleges of the province under the Pakistan Technical Assistance programme. These students pay the same fees as Pakistani students. The rest of the seats are offered under the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) foreign self-finance scheme. Under this programme, the fee varies from $5,000 to $10,000.
“The 72 seats under the PTA programme are filled every year by students from friendly foreign countries or by Pakistani citizens with dual nationalities. However, no one applies for the other 76 seats. They remain vacant,” said the official.
“Those born in US, UK, Canada, Germany and Ireland to Pakistani parents often get the nationality of these countries.
They are treated as foreigners and get admission on the seats reserved for foreigners in medical colleges. However, a large number of Pakistanis living in the Gulf and other countries cannot get admission on these seats because they never get citizenship of these countries. The committee has reviewed the situation and given its recommendations to change the policy to facilitate overseas Pakistanis,” the official said.
Adviser to Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique said the decision was taken to facilitate overseas Pakistanis, who had been demanding such reserved seats for a long time.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2014.