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ISLAMABAD: The lack of departmental ownership to take decisions on the fate of 600 medical students of Balochistan seeking recognition of their degrees from the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) coupled with bureaucratic hurdles on doubling the quota reserved for the students of the province and erstwhile FATA in the country’s medical colleges, perturbed senators in a Senate committee’s session on Monday.

The Senate Standing Committee on States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), chaired by Senator Hilalur Rehman, was scheduled to get a detailed briefing from the PMC president about reducing the quota reserved for students of ex-FATA from six to three in the country’s medical and dental colleges, who did not show up before the committee for the third time this time around, despite the specific agenda item was previously deferred on the request of the PMC with a view that its president would brief the committee.

“This is for the third time, the PMC president is avoiding to attend the committee meeting, despite commitment made with this august house,” said the committee chairman, who also directed to move a privilege motion against him for his repeated failure to show up to the panel.

The senators, including Bahramand Khan Tangi, Dost Mohammad Khan, Anwar Lal Dean, Haji Hidayatullah Khan, Danesh Kumar, and Syed Muhammad Sabir Shah, were furious to note that the representatives of the PMC and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) were not ready to take responsibility of taking a concrete decision and continued to shift responsibility on each other with regard to implementation of the federal cabinet’s March 2, 2017 decision with regard to doubling of the ex-Fata students’ quota for the next 10 years.

When discussing the issue of protesting medical students from Balochistan where future of around 600 students are at the mercy of the PMC following the Commission blacklisted three medical colleges of the province, the meeting witnessed a heated debate between Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar, PMC representative Dr Imdad Ali, the PMC assistant registrar, and Secretary SAFRON Pervaiz Ahmed Junejo.

“Don’t harass him…at least, the house should listen to him politely as he also has a self-respect. They [students] are our citizens and he [PMC representative] is also a Pakistan citizen,” the secretary SAFRON snubbed Senator Kakar when he put a question to the PMC representative, asking him that these students from Balochistan are Pakistani citizens and some of them come from areas of the province ‘where speaking for Pakistan is tantamount to taking bullet at the chest.’

“I’m not harassing anyone and this is not harassment. I am a special invitee and advocate the cases of these students. If asking a question this way is a harassment then, it’s okay, I am going to leave the house,” Senator Kakar warned of a walkout. However, the chairman of the committee intervened by saying that “we have to resolve the issue politely.”

Senator Tangi also came hard on the attitude of the PMC, saying that the Commission is playing with the future and lives of the students. “Are you forcing them [the students] to turn into drug addicts,” he added.

“We haven’t learnt the lesson from history. Bengalis were forced to create a separate country for them due to such attitude. Are we now forcing the Baloch and the Pakhtuns to take similar decisions for themselves?” said Senator Pir Sabir Shah, a former chief minister of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The committee also gave a chance to the protesting students to appraise the panel about their demands before the PMC representative and to reach a conclusive decision. The chairman of the committee advised the students to share their demands in writing to the committee to be circulated to the PMC and other relevant departments to resolve their issue.

Deliberating upon details of provision of higher education opportunities and scholarship programme for medical students from erstwhile FATA and Balochistan, the committee noted that there is confusion between the HEC and the PMC, asking the two to get together and resolve the matter.

The committee directed that the matter should be resolved at the earliest and that a circular will be passed over to the PMC members for feedback. The Committee recommended that a letter should be sent on behalf of the Senate Secretariat to ensure that the matter is expedited.

The PM representative told the committee that issue regarding FATA, quota of reserved seats of MBBS/ BDS from six to three in medical collages of AJ&K, has been resolved and remaining 36 seats in MBBS program for students of ex-FATA has also been approved by the authority.

While discussing details of the non-local staff serving in hospitals of merged areas, the chairman committee directed the Health Department Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to share detailed lists along with the CNIC numbers, so that these could be verified by the NADRA.

The committee also discussed the issue of teaching and non-teaching staff of Governor Model Schools in merged districts that were established by political agents of the said agencies, the status of which after the 18th Amendment was left in limbo.

The Department of Education, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa informed the committee that status of these schools was autonomous and were placed under the administrative control of Elementary and Secondary Education Department.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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