The Senate Standing Committee on Defence approved on Monday the National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS) Bill 2015 amid concerns raised by an opposition senator for giving sweeping powers to the military-run medical institute.
The meeting of the Senate panel headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed was held at the Parliament House.
The main agenda of the meeting was to address the numerous objections Senator Farhatullah Babar had pointed out in the bill during the previous meeting, said a statement issued by the Senate defence committee.
Brig Aamar, assistant commandant of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, gave a presentation to the committee members to address the objections raised by the Pakistan People’s Party senator.
Senator Gen Qayyum, Senator Gen Tirmizi and Senator Brig John Kenneth Williams said NUMS was a vital institution and its establishment should not be withheld any longer.
The committee cleared the bill ignoring the objections raised by the opposition lawmaker.
According to the statement, Senator Babar after the presentation expressed satisfaction over the majority of the counter arguments given by Brig Aamar.
However, the PPP lawmaker, in a separate statement, insisted the NUMS Bill did not restrict itself under the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), which serves as a watchdog over the academic functioning of all medical institutions in the country.
He argued as there was no external watchdog for NUMS, the proposed university would be governing itself.
He suggested that a clause be added making it mandatory for NUMS to follow the PMDC’s by-laws and regulations related to prescribing a uniform and minimum standard of courses and qualifications and the experience required for professors and teachers.
“It is unprecedented and illegal to allow NUMS to act as a regulator of medical education in some medical institutions just because those institutions are run by the military,” Senator Babar stated, adding the regulator’s job was for the PMDC and not that of a military-run university.
He said the PMDC Ordinance 1962, amended from time to time, including the latest amendment last month, was a federal law meant to regulate all aspects of medical education throughout the country and could not be bypassed.
“NUMS may become a world-class medical university but it cannot be allowed to become its own regulator just because it is run and operated by the army,” he argued. If the PMDC has failed in performing its functions properly, it does not mean its work should be entrusted to the military, he added.
The PPP leader alleged the proposed law gave the NUMS academic council all powers to regulate medical education independently and without reference to the PMDC laws.
“The space of civilian institutions has already shrunk shockingly and disturbingly. It will be most unfortunate if we fail to arrest this free fall of civilian institutions and continue to abdicate legitimate civilian space in matters of governance and regulation to the military authorities,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2015.