ISLAMABAD: Naqash Nasir, a resident of Rawalpindi, wanted to become a doctor. In 2009 he came across advertisements placed in different newspapers by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) about the registration of seven medical universities of China with the PMDC. It stated that the students who would graduate from these universities need not to clear the National Examination Board (NEB) test to start practice in Pakistan.
It may be noted that the NEB exam is conducted by the PMDC for those medical and dental doctors who return to Pakistan after graduating in countries where English is not the medium of instruction.
Know more: Foreign medical graduates seek registration
The PMDC started conducting the exam in early 1990s after complaints that the doctors who studied in languages other than English faced problems in treating the patients. Moreover, there were also complaints about the quality of education.
In 2012, through an Act of parliament, it was made mandatory for all foreign medical graduates to pass the NEB test. However, holders of degrees such as diploma of American Board, FRCS (UK) and equivalent were exempted from the test.
Under an act of parliament passed in 2012, foreign graduates have to pass a test to start practice in Pakistan
Naqash’s father always wanted one of his six children to become a doctor. So he got admission to the Xian Jiaotong Medical University of China in 2009.
“All the courses and teaching were in English language. I completed the MBBS course in 2014 and returned to Pakistan,” Naqash told dawn.
“After reaching home, however, I learnt that the degree which I had earned after a struggle of over five years and spending Rs5 million had no value here. I was told by the PMDC that all foreign graduates had to clear the NEB test,” he said.
“It requires another year and a half to clear the test. Moreover, I had gone to China after confirmation that the university was registered with the PMDC and I didn’t have to clear the NEB test,” he said.
“When I went to China in 2009, I had no idea that three years later the parliament would pass a law under which I would not be allowed to practice in Pakistan and even could not get admission to any university for further education,” he said.
Naqash is not the only foreign graduate who has been suffering because of the new condition. About 200 students have returned to Pakistan after completing graduation and another 340 are still abroad pursuing their MBBS degrees.
Another foreign graduate, who did not want to be quoted, added: “We contacted parliamentarians to resolve the issue. The Senate standing committee, headed by Kalsoom Perveen, took up the matter and tried to resolve it but to no avail,” he said.
“Some of the students filed an application with the Islamabad High Court (IHC) but Justice Athar Minallah ruled that all the graduates have to pass the NEB test because they completed their medical education after the passage of the Act.”
He said the PMDC executive committee, Dr Khursheed Ahmed, held a meeting with the graduates after they held a protest outside the PMDC on February 18 and assured them that the issue would be resolved. After four days, we had another meeting with the executive committee of the PMDC in which PMDC president Masood Hameed was also present. “But the committee was of the view that we have to sit in the test,” he said.
Anwar Khan, the uncle of a student, added that the PMDC should find a way out for the students because it was the PMDC which asked the students to go to China for their medical education.
The PMDC executive committee member, Dr Khursheed, told Dawn that though he had all the sympathy with the foreign graduates, they have to pass the NEB exam.
“At the executive committee meeting, the president and the legal adviser PMDC along with others said the graduates can only be exempted from the NEB test if it was mentioned in the Act that those taking admission to the Chinese universities before 2012 would be exempted,” he said.
“Though universities of China were recognised by the PMDC, after the Act of parliament it became mandatory on all the foreign graduates to pass the test,” he said.
In reply to a question, Dr Khursheed said in the past only two NEB exams were held in a year but now the PMDC is holding six exams every year. He said as only 20 to 25 per cent students passed the NEB test, they hesitated to attend it. However, the PMDC has also started refresher courses for the students, he added.
Published in Dawn March 24th, 2015