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Senate Committee passes NUMS Bill amidst controversy

ISLAMABAD, 28 SEP (DNA) – The Senate Defence Committee on Monday passed the National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS) bill giving sweeping powers to the army-run medical university.
The bill makes NUMS an autonomous body in setting standards of medical education bypassing the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), the federal watch dog and regulatory body of medical education throughout the country.
The committee meeting was presided over by chairman Mushahid Hussain Syed and was attended by secretary defence, deputy surgeon general of the Pakistan Army and other senior officers of defence ministry and proposed NUMS board other than committee members senator Farhatullah Babar, Maulana Ataur Rehman, Lieutenant General (retired) Abdul Qayyum, Lt Gen (retd) Salahuddin Tirmizi and Brigadier (retd) John Kenneth Williams.
Objecting to the Bill in its present PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar suggested that a clause be added making it mandatory for the NUMS to follow the PMDC bye laws and regulations in matters of prescribing a uniform and minimum standards of courses and minimum qualifications and experience required for medical professors and teachers.
However, the proposal was not accepted on the ground that the amendment would have to be referred back delay the National Assembly and delay passage of the Bill.
It is unprecedented and illegal to allow NUMS also act as regulator of medical education in some medical institutions just because those institutions are run by the military”, he said adding the job of regulator is that of the PMDC and not that of a military run university NUMS,he said.
He said that the PMDC Ordinance 1962 amended from time including the latest amendment last month was a federal law meant to regulate all aspects of medical education throughout the country 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 said.
He said that if PMDC had failed in performing its functions properly and was subject to criticism it did not mean that its work should be entrusted to the military. Let the PMDC be reformed instead of taking over its functions.
He said that the proposed law gave to the University’s Academic Council all powers to regulate medical education independently and without reference to the overarching PMDC law or even its representative being on the Academic Council.
To resolve the issue Farhatullah Babar proposed three options. One, the NUMS Bill should be amended so as to recognize and give primacy to the regulatory role of PMDC in matters of regulating quality of education and qualifications for appointments in the new University in accordance with the PMDC law. The second option he said is, if the army did not like to submit to a civilian regulatory body, then it should seek NOC from the PMDC for abdicating its role and responsibility in favor of NUMS.
Third, he said even if it was not acceptable and civilian oversight was anathema to the military run institution then the Committee may pass the Bill today by and he will record his note of dissent.
He then recorded his dissenting note which read in part, “The space of the civilian institutions has already shrunk shockingly and disturbingly. It would be most unfortunate if we fail to arrest this free fall of the civilian institutions and continue to abdicate legitimate civilian space in matters of governance and regulation to the military authorities.
It is in the military’s interest also that the perception of driving from the back seat but never letting off the control of the wheel is not allowed to strengthen any further. We must raise our voice against this onslaught. Let the NUMS Bill be the litmus test in this regard and hence this note of dissent”, he said.
Moulana Ataur Rehman said that he agreed with the observations of Senator Farhatullah Babar. However, if Farhatullah Babar’s objections could not stop the adoption of the bill, how could he stop it, the Moulana said. =DNA

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